In the Mayor’s attempt to turn the Chicago Riverwalk into Times Square Jr. or Hong Kong Lite, the city may soon be installing some new lights. A lot of lights. The Mayor wants to boost tourism in the city by 10 percent, or attract 55 million annual visitors by 2020 and thinks that adding a light show to the city would be the key. The lights are intended to highlight Chicago’s architecture and skyline, but also to open up tourists’ wallets by extending the day into night.
This “bright” initiative, headed up by the president of Broadway In Chicago, will start with an international call for submissions. Plans show that the lights won’t only be noticeable in the loop, as the Mayor’s vision is to expand the project into the neighborhoods. Perhaps some think Chicago’s world famous architecture can’t speak for itself.
“It will make nighttime in Chicago an experience unto itself. It will make us North America’s city of lights. People will come from far and wide to see what we’ve done and enjoy our city,” Emanuel told a clout-heavy audience at the Museum of Science and Industry.The light-up Chicago initiative is being spearheaded by Lou Raizin, president of Broadway in Chicago.
If artists, architects and engineers “work together as teams,” Raizin said he’s certain they will find ways to use Chicago’s world-renowned architecture, the city’s iconic bridges, Lower Wacker and the river itself as a “canvas” to “imagine lighting in a unique and different” way.
“It’s about creating a spectacle that winds up allowing us to be sensitive to the assets that we have, but making a pivot that takes the old guard to the vanguard. It’s not just washing a building with light. It’s about creating theater. It’s about engaging. It’s not just color. It’s three-dimensional. It’s really creating events in light,” Raizin said.
One can only hope this is done tastefully and doesn’t turn out to be garish. But, there is a lot of potential with the riverwalk and I’m still surprised it has taken this long to do much. This may seem particularly odd since since Chicago has a long history of protecting land along Lake Michigan. Yet, the city has never quite respected the river in the same way as the lake. The river has always been much more functional: a connection to the Mississippi or a place to dump sewage. Perhaps the lights indicate a new era might soon begin…