Pritzker Park is a small restful green space in Chicago’s vibrant State Street corridor. Recently acquired and improved by the Chicago Park District the .7-acre site includes concession stands and seating, a plaza, raised lawn and landscape with ornamental grasses and trees. The lawn is edged by a concrete knee-wall inscribed with quotations by famous authors including Richard Wright, Carl Sandburg, Walt Whitman and Sandra Cisneros.
Located just north of the Harold Washington Library, Pritzker Park is located on the former site of the Rialto, the last single-room occupancy hotel downtown which was demolished in 1990. At the time, the Harold Washington Library was under construction, and the City developed the park as an outdoor enhancement to the new library. The city’s Department of Planning and the non-profit group Sculpture Chicago commissioned New York artist Ronald Jones to design the space. Jones created an installation inspired by Rene Magritte’s famous surrealist painting entitled “The Banquet,” as well as the circular benches, known as council rings, by landscape architect Jens Jensen who began his career in Chicago’s parks. When Pritzker Park opened in 1991 with the Ronald Jones-designed improvements, it was unclear as to whether the park would remain as open space or eventually be developed. Two years later, Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development created design guidelines as part of a State Street plan recommending that the park should remain as a permanent green space. That year, 100 boulders were installed throughout the Loop to commemorate the achievements of 100 important Chicago women, including several in and near the park. The boulder installation was especially appropriate because the park is named for an extremely significant Chicago woman, Cindy Pritzker. A member of the Library Board of Directors from 1984 - 1998, and its president from 1989 – 1998, Cindy Pritzker was a tireless leader of the Chicago Public Libraries, spearheading the construction over thirty new branch libraries and the Harold Washington Library Center. She was the founder and chair of the Chicago Public Library Foundation, serving in that position until June of 2004. During her tenure, the Foundation saw the creation and growth of an endowment in excess of $20 million to support book collections, technology and programming. Cindy Pritzker also serves on the University of Chicago Women’s Board, and is a co-founder of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In addition to the park, the Harold Washington Library Auditorium has been named in Cindy Pritzker’s honor. After the Chicago Park District assumed ownership of Prizker Park in 2008, the agency commissioned Hoerr Schaudt landscape architects to redesign the space. Their improvements included new plantings, a long angular knee-wall inscribed with quotations from famous authors, concession stands and seating and a plaza. The plaza was designed to allow for temporary art installations. The most recent was Tony Tasset’s sculpture ‘EYE’, a 30-foot tall plexiglass eyeball.
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