CIW Speaker Thomas Dyja Explores The Third Coast with Members

“Chicago is an October sort of city even in spring,” Chicago author Nelson Algren—one of the stars of 2013 CIW speaker Thomas Dyja’s history of Chicago The Third Coast—once wrote.
Chicago Ideas Week (CIW) members certainly embraced October in spring last Wednesday, May 14 at the inaugural members’ book club at Hyatt Corporate Headquarters, part of CIW’s year-round extension of its programming beyond Ideas Week in October.  CIW Executive Director Jessica Malkin led guest Dyja in a lively discussion of The Third Coast, touching on the works of Chicago creatives as diverse as Algren and architect Louis Sullivan, the origins of Chicago’s controversial public housing projects and just what would have happened if Chicago had won its bid for the Olympics.

Thomas Dyja leads CIW members in a discussion of The Third Coast.
[We’d] be worse off than now,” Dyja was quick to answer.
Dyja’s quick retort wasn’t just a one-off response.  It was based on the expansive research he did on Chicago’s architects, musicians, businessmen and politicians who made up the commercial and “emotional” core of twentieth century Chicago.  Dyja, who dreamed as a child of becoming an architect, focused much of the book and discussion on the literal foundation of Chicago—the skyscrapers and prairie-style houses that were first popularized in Chicago.
“I really found the book to be the backstory of the world I live in now,” CIW member Sandra Gordon said.  “It was eye-opening to read.”
Like many of the Chicagoans higlighted in The Third Coast, Dyja has left Chicago for New York City, although he still draws inspiration from his hometown.
“I’ve never stopped being a Chicagoan even though I’ve lived in New York so long,” Dyja said.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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