When I first moved to Chicago one of the things that struck me was the lack of a natural land barrier stifling the city’s growth. Sure there is the lake, and yes it very much impedes Chicago’s ability to have an East side, but that is only part of what I mean.
Manhattan Island is divided on all sides from the mainland in some way and this acts as a natural boundary for New York city and it’s development. The skyscrapers sorta go up to the water and then end there suddenly. As soon as you cross over into Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey or the Bronx and the cityscape changes dramatically. Chicago isn’t like this. Downtown is full of high rise buildings and skyscrapers but it lasts for a relatively smaller portion before it tapers off. And that’s just it, it tapers off without a natural boundary to do so. It seems once you get above Chicago Avenue all the buildings gradually get shorter. When friends of mine come to visit from NY they are often taken aback by areas like Lakeview and Logan Square. They ask if I live in “Chicago proper” or “the boroughs” because to them neighborhoods like that are very distinctly divided from the rest of the city by the East river. It’s silly and obvious but most people don’t think about it.
What gets me as well is that Chicago does have things that could act as natural divisions but don’t. Chicago, unlike New York, has major waterways stretching through it.What fascinates me most with this is the Chicago River which splits downtown and Michigan Avenue right in the middle yet does not seem to impede growth on either side. Still the river has a calming effect and the small amount of land around it can be a nice place to relax.
Here are a few shots I took back in March of the river and the immediate area around it.