Saturday, May 7, 2016

May the Farce Be With You: Lucas UFO Denied Landing

[The following is a TL;DR comment from a friendly Facebook thread, edited for an open audience.] 

I've heard and get the gist of the arguments for and against the Lucas Museum, and haven’t previously gone in-depth regarding this “nontroversy” ... but two things about the spiraling foofaraw have been particularly galling me, so here’s my unsolicited amateur expert opinion:

1.) I've been really boggled by the emerging social/media narrative that has cast a public-interest org dedicated to the "open, clear, and free" lakefront as an elitist, malevolent killjoy -- contra the backroom machinations of a mayor who's spot-on central casting for "icy, profiteering A-hole who closes public schools en masse and kicks the indigent and mentally ill into the gutter," no less! That's not even hyperbole, that's just who and what Rahm Emanuel is -- a villain; a snake; a public menace. 

As a matter of political context, the narrative setup described above is just plain crazy, y’all. Indeed, this media-theater role reversal is not only counterintuitive but completely backwards, and that circumstance alone behooves a bit more careful introspection on the part of those grumbling about Friends of the Parks purportedly spoiling everyone's fun "to save a parking lot." One faction's story about what's "good for the city" is another man's boondoggle -- not to mention the incipient opportunity costs for those citizens not well-situated to benefit from the booming tourist, tech, and FIRE-sector bubbles cultivated downtown by Chicago's ruling class.  

Just think about the mental and rhetorical gymnastics required to make FOTP the bad guy in this scenario. It's completely bonkers.

2.) Those renderings ... those inexcusably vague yet unaccountably persistent, reprehensibly vapid, trying-so-hard-to-be-cutting-edge-it's-just-gauche, ugly blobitecture concept renderings … GAH! I know taste is subjective and many (if not most) people are easily gulled by this kind of fashion-forward parametric nonsense, but IMO it’s just freaking atrocious and wholly inappropriate for any site IRL; save maybe some ex-Soviet satellite backwater burg awkwardly trying to co-opt the Bilbao Effect way too late in the game.

I mean, just look at that thing. Put aside the warm fuzzy feels of your Star Wars: Original Trilogy nostalgia and Windy City boosterism for just a moment (if you possibly can) and look at the design aesthetic and building form per se. Take away the movie magic and put it on a studio presentation board from some anonymous upstart, and all the hype melts into a shapeless, colorless wad of parametric pixel-dough, topped with a circular fluorotube from a dusty old drafter's desk-lamp.

Once one sees it for what it is, prima facie, and mentally reconnects it with the patron and program, then it’s just begging for some prankster (with better photo manipulation skills than mine) to mash up with an image of Jabba the freaking Hutt, to focus all the unharnessed ridicule it rightly deserves into a scorching laser-beam of hate. I can't stand it, and yes, I might even prefer the existing parking lot instead. And anyone who rides with my careening trains of thought online knows there are few things in our built environment I hate more than a goddamned surface parking lot.

So, sorry, but No. Sharpen your pencil – a PENCIL, please – and try again, geniuses. If you want to clutter up our public lakefront with more gargantuan, private-profit tourist attractions (and let me also add that there are too damn many of those already) you’ve got to do better than this. This is just a tawdry, rube-hustling travesty masquerading as High Design. And I think we all know it. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I say all of the above in spite of my notorious status as a die-hard, cosplaying, merch-collecting, mentally certifiable SW/LucasFilm fanboy. In any other site or building context, I would love, love, LOVE to enjoy this proposed museum’s program. (Oh, and BTW: re-purposing Gene Summers' beloved Lakeside Center complex is off-the-menu why, exactly? Duh, because every new program deserves its own brand-new "statement" building, instead of adapting an existing structure purpose-built for large, flexible programs; also we're still rich enough a city and nation that we can afford to throw away entire mega-structures ... okay, sure, it's your empire, Mr. Mayor.) So if I had an axe to grind, "common sense" would have me swinging it the other way -- but no, this is a garbage idea, and it fully deserves to be shot down, loaded onto a barge, and unceremoniously dumped somewhere far downstate, where the population's sparse and landfill space abundant.