Monday, December 8th, 2008
You may recall from my previous post on the streetlights of Chicago that the Windy City has possibly the best street lighting of any city in the world. I have been less than fully enthusiastic about the new decorative lighting the city has installed, however. Well, not to be outdone, IDOT has gotten in on the act of degrading its lighting design.
On its freeways too, Chicago is an amazingly well lit city. I’ve always said that IDOT does it right. Well, not any more. I mean, the roads are still better lit than any city in America, but instead of tasteful, reasonably human scaled individual light standards like these on the Kennedy Expressway
IDOT is now installing continuous “high mast” tower lighting, as in this scene on the Dan Ryan. (You should click to enlarge this to get the full effect).
Yuck. I’ve always hated this. High mast lighting towers are awful anywhere, but they are a particular abomination in the city center. They resemble nothing so much as cell phone towers, and the way IDOT has lined the sides of the Stevenson, Dan Ryan, and Kingery with them makes you feel like you are driving through a veritable cell tower forest. These huge towers are completely out of scale to the human and urban fabric, and, unlike the individual standards that mimic normal street lighting, do not engage properly with the road. They stand apart from it as surely as any self-referential suburban office complex ever did. (IDOT is slightly better than normal on this last point, I must admit). I’d never use them anywhere, but if you must, then they should be out in the countryside keeping company with roadside truck stops and Stuckey’s. At least there they serve a semi-utilitarian function of giving you ample warning that you’re about to come upon a place where you can fill up.
Sorry for the tilt on the Kennedy photo. I had to stick my camera around a pole to get a clear shot because of the protective railings that are up on the overpasses.
An Urbanophile gold star to the first person can tell me how many high mast towers are visible in the Dan Ryan picture, and whether or not that is a world record for all time most high mast towers in a single photo fame.