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Monday, March 29, 2004

Book Review: Unexpected Chicagoland

Unexpected Chicagoland by Camilo José Vergara and Timothy J. Samuelson
The New Press, 2001
Hardcover, 208 pages

Photographer Vergara's collaboration with Chicago historian Samuelson was published in 2001, in conjunction with an exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. His focus is the overlooked pieces of cities and their changes over time, due to neglect, gentrification, politics, commercialism, etc. Sections include obvious choices like George Pullman's company town (its administration building gracing the cover) and Frank Lloyd Wright houses fallen into disrepair, but also many ordinary objects taken for granted that gain a certain meaning over time, like public service billboards, neon signs, 1950's motels, and the ever-present corner turret in all it's shapes, sizes and materials. Featuring over 200 color photographs, the images don't strike me as beautiful, but instead they document a place and time without glossing over the decay of time nor the less-pleasing changes that have occurred in cities. Mainly, the book makes me want to rent a car and drive around the city, exploring all these places I have yet to come across in my regular routine, before it's too late.

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