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Rethinking urban density through the Chicago experience: a socio-ecological practice approach

Abstract

Today, many significant factors, including massive globalization, rapid urban population increase, intense urban regeneration, extensive agglomeration, soaring land prices, and a dire need for land preservation, among others, force cities to build upward. However, many cities lack the experience of integrating vertical density into their urban landscape. Within the socio-ecological practice framework, this perspective essay explains and illustrates recent project examples from the City of Chicago. They constitute an extraordinary leap in retrofitting aging urban infrastructure, balancing the horizontal plane with the vertical one, and harmonizing nature with the urban environment. The paper proposes an innovative “eco-density” theoretical framework to improve understanding of Chicago’s spatial structure and socio-ecological experience.

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Fig. 1

Source: aerial photograph courtesy of Google Earth (color figure online)

Fig. 2

Photograph by author

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Photograph by author

Fig. 4

Photograph by author

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Photograph by author

Fig. 6

Photograph by author

Fig. 7

Photograph by author

Fig. 8

Photograph by author

Fig. 9

Source: City of Chicago

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Top photograph by author; bottom, City of Chicago

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Fig. 12

Photograph by author

Fig. 13

Photograph by author

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Photograph by author

Fig. 15

Photograph by author

Fig. 16

Source: Lurie Garden

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Source: City of Chicago

Fig. 18

Source: Aerial photograph courtesy of Google Earth

Notes

  1. Source: CTBUH Skyscraper Center, https://www.skyscrapercenter.com/.

  2. Proposed

    When a building fulfills all the following criteria, it earns the “proposed” title as follows:

    1.The project has a specific site, an owner, and a developer who are seriously interested in executing the project.

    2.The professional design and planning team has passed the conceptual design stage of the project and are progressing toward completing construction drawings.

    3.The project has obtained construction permission or in the process to do so.

    4.The announcement of the “proposed” building comes from a credible source.

    Source: CTBUH Skyscraper Center, https://www.skyscrapercenter.com/.

  3. Visionary

    A building project earns this title when it meets one of the following three criteria:

    1.A project idea that does not fulfill the “proposed” criteria mentioned above (the four conditions of a “proposed” project).

    2.A “proposed” project that developers could not advance to the construction stage, or

    3.A project idea whom architects conceived to be an inspirational proposition.

    Source: CTBUH Skyscraper Center, https://www.skyscrapercenter.com/.

  4. Ecologists consider an FQI above 35 to be “natural area” quality.

  5. Renowned scholars have applied Lynch’s theory to landscape ecology (e.g., Annie Palone and Carl Steinitz). However, none has engaged the topic of tall buildings in their studies.

  6. “Nothing captures the scope and scale of McHarg’s legacy better than his landmark book, Design With Nature, published in the spring of 1969. It remains one of the best-selling books ever written by a designer, has been translated into Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, and remains in print today” (Fleming et al. 2019).

  7. Lynch’s the Image of the City book has been most influential. It has been translated to about 15 languages; and “was recently in its 37th printing and has sold close to 250,000 copies in English, a testament to its popularity” (Banerjee et al. 2018, p. 214).

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Acknowledgements

The author would like to deeply thank the journal’s reviewers for useful feedback. Great thanks are also due to the journal Editor-in-Chief, Professor Wei-Ning Xiang, and Guest Editor, Professor Xinhao Wang, for helpful directions, detailed comments, and encouragement to revise and resubmit the paper. The author would like to sincerely thank both professors for invitation to present the paper in the Tongji-GLUT (Guilin University of Technology) advanced lecture conference that was held in Guilin, China in May 17–19, 2019. Further, I would like to thank Professor Greg Lyndsey and Professor Jachna Timothy for insightful comments on the presentation.

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Al-Kodmany, K. Rethinking urban density through the Chicago experience: a socio-ecological practice approach. Socio Ecol Pract Res 2, 131–147 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42532-020-00050-7

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