By Glenn S. Wrightson
Wow – have we progressed – or have we? Joni Mitchell reveals, “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.” I remember when the Hyatt Regency’s opaque dome (we called it the Blue Hamburger) was the tallest building in town – and now it is overgrown.
We now have the consequences of progress in front of Grant Park’s Milledge Fountain in the form of a replaced walkway. Before being removed, the area’s surface was a kind and seasoned asphalt.
For the sake of progress, when springtime arrived this year, we stayed out of a yellow plastic tape boundary and away from disturbing shoveling excavators to have pieced together with stone-cutting ear-destroying dust showers a new stone walkway complete with unevenness and a miss-located distractive appearance. Plus, unfortunately, because of a superior lack of foresight, the aged water pipe to serve the fountain was not replaced before covering it with stone.
Add to these expectations the substituting of tranquility and relaxing setting with shopping mall textbook design features and you have what I term the Fallacy of Progress. And this is in addition to changing the park’s night lighting from soft yellow to bright white last year.
And, while some may be surprised, these empty improvements cost money; money that surely can be better spent if we require ourselves to spend it. (We could honestly say, ”Let’s just not worry about people being illiterate; let’s replace a walkway with an inferior surface.”)
We have succumbed to the belief that spending money in the name of progress and installing a give-the-credit-to-so-and-so placard will ameliorate and placate our otherwise empty self-baskets. This is not a newly-derived motivation and, it is not easy to displace.
When the Hyatt Regency was built, both fountains in Grant Park, the Milledge and Erskine Memorial fountains, operated. Water was gently refreshing and replenishing itself in a peaceful continuum. Dry fountains in public places speaks to the arid tastes of high-profile people in private public offices.
I suggest we, either individually or as a community, enjoy the progress we may achieve by stepping into the past with flowing fountains in the parks and stopping the unnecessary, distractive, expensive efforts to achieve only pretend progress. Can we not better manage our community resources?
Progress or Fallacy?
By Glenn S. Wrightson