Walter Netsch Lecture Series

Walter Netsch

Friends of the Parks’ Walter Netsch Lecture Series honors renowned architect Walter Netsch’s vision and leadership that changed the culture of the Chicago Park District.  The lecture series offers free quarterly lectures on topics of parks, the environment, urban planning and public policy.  Speakers include policy experts, authors and government officials.  The 2013 quarterly noon lecture series will be held in the Claudia Cassidy Auditorium of the Chicago Cultural Center.

The complete schedule of the Friends of the Parks’ Walter Netsch Lecture Series includes discussions by authors, historians, planners and environmentalists.


UPCOMING LECTURES – Free of charge

Thursday, September 11 at 12:15 p.m. – Arts in the Parks Series

Guest speaker, John David Mooney, artist

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Claudia Cassidy Auditorium

Chicago based artist John David Mooney will talk about Public Art in Public Spaces and what inspires him to create the large scale public art installations we enjoy. Have you ever wondered what the inspiration behind the Spiral Galaxy at the Adler Planetarium was? Now is your chance you learn more about it! 





Walter Netsch served as the President of the Chicago Park District from 1986 through 1989.   He was appointed to the Board by Mayor Harold Washington and given the task to reform the Chicago Park District from a political patronage system to a professionally managed agency. Netsch took on the task.  He developed a city-wide plan to decentralize the Park District which was implemented in short order.  He created a professional Department of Research and Planning and hired creative and accomplished architects and planners which led to better designed fieldhouses and landscapes.  Under his tenure, all 500 children’s playgrounds were reconstructed in five years, 100 playgrounds a year were rebuilt, and each involved the planning and volunteer work of the community.

As a world renowned architect, Netsch led the team which designed the original University of Illinois Circle Campus. During his career, Netsch designed 15 libraries, as well as academic buildings for colleges and universities in the United States and Japan, including the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. He may be most well known as the lead designer for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado and its famous Cadet Chapel. The Cadet Chapel at the Academy was named a National Historic Landmark in 2004.



Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 12:15 p.m. – Garden in the Phoenix, Jackson Park

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Claudia Cassidy Auditorium

Our speaker, Robert Karr, Jr., an attorney, author, and urban parks advocate, is leading two projects focused on the improvement of Jackson Park, Project 120 and the Garden of the Phoenix.

The Garden of the Phoenix is located in Jackson Park.  It is one of the most important sites in America reflecting the past and the future of U.S.-Japan relations.  In 2013, over 120 cherry blossom trees were planted in and around this site to commemorate its extraordinary history and to usher in a new era of the Garden the relationship between these two nations in Chicago.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012 – The Chicago Parks Legacy of Walter Netsch

To kick off the Friends of the Parks’ Walter Netsch Lecture Series, Ed Uhlir, Executive Director of Millennium Park, Inc., IIT adjunct professor, and expert on parks and on contemporary Chicago architecture presented the inaugural lecture. Mr. Uhlir discussed Netsch’s contributions to the urban fabric of Chicago, its lakefront and parks.

Thursday, March 8, 2012 – Twenty-First Century Chicago

Keynote Speaker Dick Simpson, author, past alderman and head of the political science department of the University of Illinois at Chicago will discuss his new book, Twenty-First Century Chicago.  Professor Simpson will present his findings on the social, economic, political and governmental conditions of Chicago in the twenty-first century and those implications on the parks, lakefront, environment and community development.

Thursday, June 14, 2012 – The City in the Garden:  A Photographic History of Chicago’s Parks

Author and historian Julia Bachrach will discuss the history of Chicago’s motto: Urbs in Horto through a narrative and photo documentary taken from her newly released book, The City in the Garden:  A Photographic History of Chicago’s Parks. The audience will learn the fascinating history of Chicago’s historic lakefront, regional and neighborhood parks as well as some of the treasures that exist within them.

Thursday, September 13, 2012 – Millennium Reserve, a Bold Plan for Chicago’s South East Side

A panel of experts will discuss the Millennium Reserve, a new initiative of Governor Pat Quinn.  The Millennium Reserve is a vision to expand parkland and conservation areas on the southeast side for public recreation.   Panelists from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Friends of the Parks and Chicago State University will present information on the new Millennium Reserve.

Thursday, December 13, 2012Chicago from the Sky:  A Region Transformed

Renowned aerial photographer, planner and author, Lawrence Okrent will offer a visual presentation of Chicago’s parks and lakefront transformed in the last decades.  Aerial photos show before and after visuals that will give the audience a look at the transformation of some of Chicago’s parks and neighborhoods.

Thursday, December 12, 2013 - The Integration of Public Art and Public Parks

Jon Pounds, Executive Director of the Chicago Public Art Group will be our featured speaker.  The Chicago Public Art Group has done extraordinary work expanding the experience of public art into the underpasses of Lake Shore Drive, in parks and in other settings around Chicago.