“I never paid any attention to this space until I was asked to get involved,” says Ian Whiting of the humble garden plot in Uptown’s Sunnyside Mall, adopted in 2016 by students at Courtenay Elementary’s Budding Gardeners program. Ian was one of several enthusiastic Uptown residents representing their neighborhood gardens during ICA-USA’s Third Annual Uptown Garden Walk on September 8th, 2018. His hospitality was visible by a table full of flyers, pamphlets, and Sunnyside Mall beverage koozies. His favorite item, however, was a binder showing how the space has changed over the years.Flipping excitedly to an image of the Mall from the 1970s, Ian remarked that it’s almost unrecognizable now. He hopes that the changes keep coming in the form of neighbors adopting more of the available plots and attending festivities he’s planning for families in the neighborhood.
Ian’s enthusiasm and deep concern for his neighborhood epitomize the spirit of the Uptown Garden Walk. All over Uptown, the community in which ICA-USA is based, people are proud of their community gardens, which often serve as neighborhood gathering spaces. Whether an event space like Sunnyside Mall, an organic vegetable garden like Ginkgo Gardens, or a scenic passthrough for walkers and joggers like Buena Peace Garden, Uptown’s gardens are worth celebrating.
In addition to highlighting neighborhood gardens, this year’s Garden Walk featured two guided tours. In “Trees of Uptown”, Andrew Lueck, a consulting arborist with Planned Forest Solutions, returned for a second year to amaze attendees with the tragedies that can befall urban trees—most live less than a year, and some of the oldest become the subject of lawsuits or the victims of construction projects such as the Lakeshore Trail separation currently underway in Chicago.
Urban development and public green spaces inevitably intersect, a theme explored by ICA-USA colleagues Melanie Eckner and Susan Ask on their “No Small Plans” tour, which followed both literally and figuratively the pedestrian paths imagined by famed landscape architect Alfred Caldwell in the 1930s. It turns out that ideas now gaining traction in Chicago’s sustainability landscape, such as honoring natural stormwater drainage and prioritizing native wildflowers, were prominent in Caldwell’s vision for Uptown nearly a hundred years prior. It leaves one to wonder what other lessons from the past might inform the work of the future?
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, October 2018.