Jamie Kripke’s latest personal project came about somewhat by happenstance: he was doing some photography research for a friend when he discovered the unique story of the Chicago Park District’s fieldhouses. The city began building fieldhouses in the 1850s to provide a year-round community space for athletics, recreation, and other activities. Today, the city maintains some 230 fieldhouses, nearly one for every neighborhood.
“This project is similar to the project I shot about the Freemasons in that the buildings are from another time. The kind of sad part is that the buildings are really underused just because of cultural and societal changes over the years. That’s also reflected in our architecture. Many of the fieldhouses are these beautiful old buildings built out of brick and stone and wood,” said Jamie.
He made four trips to Chicago over the past year; on each trip he visited a few more locations, wandering the halls and grounds with a tripod and his camera. No two fieldhouses are exactly alike. Some have pools, others have libraries. Rather than shoot the buildings, Jamie was looking for the details that make them unique.
“It was less about the grandeur of the space and more about what I could discover that was maybe less obvious. I shot the big spaces when they were interesting, but a lot of the project was wandering around looking for these hidden details,” he said.
Taken as a whole, the collection of images tells the stories of the people who have enjoyed these community centers over the past 100 or more years. Some of his favorite images are of the swimming pool with all its textures and colors.
“I wanted to find the common thread that ties all these buildings together. What I discovered was this kind of patina that tells a story,” he said.