Art in Urban Development


By John W. Hammerschlag

Photo courtesy of Fifield Co.

One of the many challenges institutions and building developers face when planning new developments is personality and curb appeal. How can they ensure the neighborhood’s new addition stands out in a crowd of concrete and steel? One way they are tackling this issue is by commissioning artists to enhance a building with artwork on a grand scale.

In 2017, we served as parking graphics advisor to enhance the interior appeal of the public garage at Fifield Co.’s luxury apartment development, The Sinclair. Located at 1201 North LaSalle Street in Chicago, IL, the residential tower, which includes ground-floor retail and above-grade parking, occupies a high-traffic area boasting dining, retail, and entertainment venues.

The Sinclair pays homage to prominent author Upton Sinclair and is a reference to the buildings in the neighboring Sandburg Village named in honor of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and biographer, Carl Sandburg. Individual buildings in this bold 1960’s urban renewal project were named for celebrated American authors, such as Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, and William Faulkner.

Fifield Co. commissioned Chicago native Jeff Zimmermann to create a mural on a highly visible blank exterior wall that encased the parking garage on the alley. Comprising five notable writers – Earnest Hemmingway, James Baldwin, Upton Sinclair, Betty Smith, and Ayn Rand – the colorful mural adds a pleasing diversion in an otherwise dull backdrop.

The end result is a striking addition to the neighborhood and gives The Sinclair its very own sense of identity in the dense urban landscape. Public art is rapidly becoming a priority for institutions and developers and changing the view of cityscapes, including parking garages, across the nation. Over the next several months, we intend to illustrate the value of public art with other parking projects.

John Hammerschlag is president of Hammerschlag & Co., Inc. and is a member of IPMI’s Planning, Design, and Construction Committee.