SOUTH WORKS DEEP GEOLOGICAL STUDY: The Human Role in the Formation of South Works

Steelworkers Park, Chicago 2018-2019

The South Works Deep Geological Study is an investigation into the history of the South Works site through its geology. The land jutting into the lake is made up of mostly slag landfill dumped by steel mills between the late 1880s and 1922 expanding the land from an original 73 acres to the present 573 currently owned by U.S. Steel and the Chicago Park District. This study brings the geology of the site up from below, both literally and figuratively, in order to expose the history of the formation of the site through human actions and to delve into the social, ecological and environmental history of the place. It works to locate human history on the deep geological time scale within the Anthropocene, the geologic epoch we now inhabit defined by permanent changes brought upon the planet by human actions, and to acknowledge the role that people played in shaping this unique land- scape.

Materials are collected, identified, organized and displayed for inspection: iron detritus, coke, limestone, concrete and iron ore pellets litter the site, while slag sits below the surface like a new layer of bed rock creating cliffs along the lakeshore. Exposing these materials reveals histories of the industrialization of Lake Michigan’s south shore, the development of Southeast Chicago as a community that revolved around industrial jobs and the environmental and ecological effects of industry to the area. The purpose of the project is to bring to light the South Works site as man-made land, the roles that Chicagoans have played in the creation of this place and their participation in the evolution of this site into a new community space as a public park.