• Who Is the City For? Architecture, Equity, and the Public Realm in Chicago
    Blair Kamin
    Lee Bey
    University of Chicago Press, 2022
    Lee Bey & Blair Kamin

"Cloud Gate" sculpture in Millennium Park: is the new icon of Chicago also the ultimate shiny, distracting object? Photo: Lee Bey

Who Is the City For? Architecture, Equity, and the Public Realm in Chicago focuses on the nation’s third largest city but addresses issues that transcend it. Perceptively portraying Chicago as dynamic but deeply troubled, riven by both gun violence and chasms of race and class, the book ultimately issues a constructive critique. Its expansive view of the term “equity” stresses the need for both the fair distribution of necessities and amenities to neighborhoods long denied them, as well as design’s essential role in creating the urban spaces that we share. From this perspective, the author analyzes not only the Chicago-based projects of two recent US Presidents (Trump and Obama), but larger questions as well: Are cities becoming more livable as well as bigger? Are their buildings the architectural equivalent of good citizens? What historic buildings should be saved and why? Which urban policy approach—pragmatic centrism or aspirational public-private partnerships—can make the city work for all?

In 28 years as the architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin wrote with clarity and power about all aspects of the built environment, from skyscrapers and museums to parks and public housing. His “activist criticism” not only shaped civic debate but often influenced its outcome, bringing him journalism’s highest honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, awarded in 1999. A graduate of Amherst College and the Yale School of Architecture, Kamin was a Nieman Foundation for Journalism fellow at Harvard in 2012–13. In addition to lecturing widely and discussing architecture on numerous television and radio programs, he has authored or edited four books, including two previous collections of his columns published by the University of Chicago Press, Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago (2001) and Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age (2010). Kamin’s work also has been recognized by the Society of Architectural Historians and the International Committee of Architectural Critics. He lives in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

Lee Bey is an editorial writer and architecture critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and the author of Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side (Northwestern University Press, 2019). Previously former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley’s deputy chief of staff for architecture and urban planning, Bey has had photographs published in the New York Times and Architectural Digest.