Marina Resende Santos

These images were made on recent walks into the construction site of the 78, a contested urban development the size and scope of a neighbourhood, on the margins of the Chicago River, across from Roosevelt Road and the Amtrak loading station - a prime South Loop location.

In the winter between 2017 and 2018, I stood on the Roosevelt bridge and recorded the tall, regrown prairie grasses waving in the wind, around old train tracks that ran parallel to the river. In the past month, I found access to the old lifting bridge on what I call the "Amtrak field", and crossed the bridge to the site for the first time. These photos and video show some of the moments recognising this changing space. The prairie remains on the eastern edge of the land. The valley is a vortex of sound, the hum of cars on four imaginable sides and occasional aeroplanes, the bells of trains on east and west, the rolling belts in machines elsewhere in the vast construction site, and the birds, many birds migrating from one part to the other in the remaining grasses. The high-rises wrapping the northern and eastern sides reflect a blue sky on their mirrored glass; the Sears Tower is visible on the north, announcing the centrality, the ridiculous real estate value of this vast empty site. It is vaster than it seems from the Roosevelt bridge. The soil on the central area has been upturned and softened, creating a waving pattern of defeated dirt. Sculpturally bent rebars twist through a large mound of concrete from an unknown demolished structure. Even more than by the immediate contrast of "prairie" and city (and of my memory and the present state of the site), I am struck by the relationship between the mounds of material and the built-up South Loop's mirrored glass buildings: a relationship of simultaneous contrast and promise.

Marina is online, on instagram, and on Vimeo
Contact & Editor’s Note

Open Concept, 2020