Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden–as an artistic work–is especially poignant during the controversy over Grant Park’s “open, free, and clear” status. Chicago’s motto, “Urbs in Horto,” is meant to highlight the city’s commitment to parkland, but it’s basically PR. When the city was given the motto, our metropolis was more of a slaughterhouse in a mud puddle; now it’s a TIF in a grid. 

And Millennium Park, for all its attraction and wonder, is an aesthetic expression of the triumph of urbanity. It’s no less a simulacrum than Washington Park, Garfield Park, and the city’s other sylvan, continental green spaces, but it is hugely different, notably in its lack of green space. It’s crazy futuristic (the Bean, the Gehry bandshell) and its most significant humanizing touch, the Crown Fountain, is the glitziest light sculpture between Times Square and Vegas.

In the midst of all this is Lurie Garden. According to the official site, the fenced-in hedge is meant to symbolize Sandburg’s “city of big shoulders,” but to me it looks like an internment camp for brushy little trees, a symbol of victory over the prairie. It questions the city’s motto and the aspirationally Euro aspect of Olmstead’s parks, but also suggests the delicacy of the open land we have left in the city and its environs. It’s worth thinking about while the Children’s Museum comes in for a crash landing.