Euclid’s Chi-Town

I was recently in Chicago, where I guess I hadn’t been in about twenty, twenty-five years. I had an interesting experience — maybe more like a revelation — walking around. It is hard to account for, but in the few days that I was there, I couldn’t stop seeing everything as points, lines, shapes, regularized squiggles. It was unlike any other experience I’d ever had during any of my many previous peripatetic promenades.

To the point where everything became geometric form. I was suddenly seemingly inhabiting a world designed by the precise sensibilities of Euclid.

It began at the airport, really. Juxtaposed angles. Lines in contrast. Squares inside rectangles within parallelograms. Nary a circle or diamond or pentagon in sight.

But, I didn’t really catch on to the emerging theme until I was sitting in my suite. Just peering out the living room window, taking in the lay of the land.

Something about the tight organization, the symmetry of line, the mindset, struck me just so, so I popped my head out the door, and it wasn’t long before I began to catch on to the general concept.

Enough to head on down to the lobby to test out the encroaching suspicion.

And, yup, there it was in the design of the suites, but also in something as incidental as the indoor waterwall.

Well, this was downright eerie. So I returned to my room and gave myself a night to sleep it off.

Only, the next day, it only got worse. Try walking through Millennium Park without getting infected with the Euclidian worldview. I dare you.

Whether it was the buildings looming in the background . . .

. . . or the (slightly unsettling) birdcage overhead . . .

. . . or the stage at park center . . .

. . . the prison of geometry was inescapable.

And then it was on the brain and I was cooked, fricasseed, par-broiled, pan-seared (well, actually, bad analogy: more like locked in a box); in a word, I was worthless for anything other than Euclid-ometrics.

Over there, the parking structure . . . over here, the revolving doors:

In the museum, an Escheresque cross-roads:

Overhead, orbs with triangles; out on the street, traffic and edifices adhering to parabolic principles:

To the point where you couldn’t even see the traffic through the geometric equation:

I have to admit, though, that there is a lyricism in this, a sparkling luster. I can’t say for sure that it is only this town, but it certainly is the case that this is a town where points and lines and shapes do prevail; where physical design does matter; and where urban form is art.

And, in a city where every simple structure — and especially the juxtaposition and confluence of variegated forms — carries the potential for visual sensation, for the emergence of physical meaning . . . well, that is a city, indeed.

A place well worth a second, or third or fourth look. A city that would justify one suspending peripaticity and offering it a lover’s affection; committing to it a sustained visitation.

For as long as the shapes continue to coo their cool, magical code.