Like most alleys in the Chicago Loop, Quincy Court – a little strip of concrete sandwiched between a McDonald’s and a Payless Shoes – was just another dark urban urinal slash trash bin only rarely entered by passersby trying to cut behind the Dirksen Federal Building to get to the Jackson Blvd. red line.
That is, until strange, foreign growths started to appear in the alley this past summer.
Okay, so the bizarre green palm-like structures that now occupy the space didn’t sprout of of nowhere, but it sure seems that way. The revamping of the dark alley was done by LA-based architect Jennifer Cosgrove and her firm, Rios Clementi Hale Studios in an effort to spruce up the delapidated area behind the celebrated Mies van der Rohe structure.
“It has a playful quality to it,” said Cosgrove of the 15-ft. palm structures and neon-lighted picnic tables. It also comes equipped with a bit of irony – like why a city so dedicated to the interplay between urban and ecological, would spend $2.5 million on fake trees rather than a fraction of that on real ones. In the end, it’s the federal government that put up the money for the “sculptural grove” and since the fed is rolling in dough that makes it okay.
Costs aside, I think the whimsical nature of the installment is perfect, especially in contrast to the gloomy symmetry of van der Rohe’s Dirksen building.
After all, Chicago is known as a serious, hard-nosed city. Why not add a little piece of ironic-pop-glowing-alien-like paradise to our otherwise blue-collar streets?
Hell, I’ll take fake palm trees over real piss stains any day of the week. And the view at night ain’t bad either.