Rendering of Northwestern University Visitors’ Center. Rendering by Goettsch Partners

Am still enjoying your RoundTablecritiques and hope that last one (“No Apologies”) was not valedictory.  Also keep a copy of Ragdale III near my word processor for constant inspiration.

Anyhow, I’m writing in the hope that you’ll have something extra-stern to say about Northwestern’s proposed “Visitor Center.”  It is so cold, so out of context, so abusive of the lakefront that I fear my alma mater has learned nothing from past gaucheries and is descending further into aesthetic barbarism.

What would James Gamble Rogers say?

– John McCarron

In response to John McCarron, Urban Affairs Writer

Dear John:

This writer started to get concerned when Ald. Judy Fiske and he agreed on a major issue – Northwestern University’s  proposed Visitors Center and Parking Garage building that is intended to attract prospective students.

This writer has been under the obviously mistaken impression that prospective students (one of my grandsons among them) are attracted to NU because of its excellent education and high respect among potential employers in their chosen field.

My grandson is now 26 and a senior editor at Time Magazine. No visitors center with lakeside parking (does this not sound like an ad for a Sheridan Road condo?) was the attraction. He believed he would be in the school that would give him the opportunity for the best education. 

In the brief Council discussion, Jack Weiss rejected it as an injustice to the community to put a parking lot on a very sensitive part of the lakefront.

And now the very respected voice of John McCarron has joined the critics: “It is so cold, so out of context, so abusive of the lakefront that I fear my alma mater has learned nothing from the past gaucheries and is descending farther into aesthetic barbarism.” Well said.

And the City Council? Do they have the right to give away the community’s lakefront? Is Northwestern’s influence so powerful that the citizens who expressed their outrage – and they were only a small number compared to the sentiment in the community – were dismissed out of hand and, within a brief meeting, a major precedent was set? Daniel Burnham is rotating in his grave.  

If the Council has decided it owns and controls the lakefront, it should at least have some aesthetic sense for what it is doing. If the lakefront is to be desecrated, let it be for a masterpiece, not the banal, meaningless, tasteless offense they approved. If we are to live with a bad building, at least hide it. If we are to lose our lakefront, let it be to something that enriches the community.

John, thank you for raising my blood pressure. We can only hope everyone comes to their senses and overturns this decision. Let’s hope for better news this coming year. Wishing you the best of health.

– John Macsai