BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago © David Schalliol



Issue statement by Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context


The inaugural Chicago Architectural Biennial, titled “The State of the Art of Architecture,” closed over six months ago. In a little over a year, the second edition will be on its way with locals and visitors once again discussing current issues about architecture. Just like the inaugural edition, hundreds of projects, events, and conversations will once again take over the city for three months, injecting new energy into the architectural community and, hopefully, the public at large.

While events of this scale bring an influx of attention throughout their duration, it is the time in between them when we can reflect on the issues at stake, successes and missed opportunities, and what structural changes are needed to achieve those goals on which we collectively agree upon.

The exhibition BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago, which I curated , was part of the inaugural biennial. The eighteen projects included in BOLD investigated urban conditions located in Chicago but that are also present in other cities. The proposals varied in scale, topic of investigation, and architectural exploration, but they all took a stance and intelligently and critically addressed those urban conditions. Through their imagination, but grounded in current conditions, each participant showed alternative ways of thinking as well as a path for architects and designers to play a crucial role in the transformation of the city. The projects shaped and visualized a new possible future and, in doing so, they challenged the visible and invisible structures that decide that future city for us. Fortunately, these projects and challenges were shared openly and publicly with residents and visitors. By locating the core of the biennial (and the BOLD exhibition) in a public building such as the Chicago Cultural Center (Chicago’s former main library), visitors of all ages and all backgrounds had free access to explore these ideas and to become participants in (or at least aware of) this important conversation to shape Chicago.

Ultimately, the position of the exhibition (and this issue) is that architecture should engage with the city, strategically and critically, using all of the tools at its disposal. And, when possible, architecture should collaborate with other disciplines that, from their respective expertise, can add tremendously valuable knowledge to explore the potential of our cities. Chicago is facing issues that are neither small nor easy to fix. It is a city that is growing increasingly unequal with important social and economic challenges. For some it is a “world class city.” For others, it is the city where, day in day out, you see your family, neighbors, and friends get shot. Two realities exist under the name of Chicago. These are issues that cannot be overlooked if we genuinely want to change our city. They require careful analysis, determination, and the expertise of many, including architects.

The architects and designers behind the projects featured in BOLD are eager to be part of the conversations about Chicago. They are eager to discuss their strategies, to be challenged about their positions, and to change opinions about what can be done. The exhibition lasted for three months and, with this issue, we hope to extend that conversation and continue to add new voices to it. More than a record of a past activity, we want this issue to serve as a tool to look forward. A document to continue to reflect on and build upon, whether in future editions of the biennial or on a daily basis, as the city continues to take shape.



Visitors during the opening of BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago © David Schalliol



Peter Exley (left) and Tom Jacobs (right) © David Schalliol



Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido (left) and Juan Gabriel Moreno (right) © David Schalliol



Pete Landon discussing his project © David Schalliol



Kelly Bair discussing her project © David Schalliol



Visitor documenting the exhibition © Iker Gil



The BOLD exhibition and publication have had invaluable help from Cameron Acheson, Stephen Adzemovic, Joseph Altshuler, Kelly Bair, Bill Baker, Catherine Baker, Chris Bennett, Michelle Benoit, Brandon Biederman, Maya Bird-Murphy, Jeff Bone, David Brown, Tyler Brown, Matthew Busscher, Selina Chiu, Yona Chung, André Corrêa, Darryl G. Crosby, Alex Culler, Hope Dinsmore, Anthony Dombrowski, Sarah Dunn, Alejandra Edery-Ferre, Mircea Eni, Martin Felsen, Brenda Gamboa, Claire Gaspin, Jonathan Gately, Jacob Gay, Grant Gibson, Trisha Girdwood, Veronica Gomez, Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, Caroline Grebner, Luke Hegeman, Ryan Hernandez, Stewart Hicks, Tom Jacobs, Tad Jameyfield, Ania Jaworska, Benton Johnson, Aishwarya Keshav, Jungsik Kim, Shin Kim, France La, Katie LaCourt, Jessie LaFree, Sean Lally, Peter Landon, Michelangelo La Tona, Brian Lee, Chi Yin Lee, Elias Logan, Obed Lopez, Eugenia Macchia, Jeffrey Macias, Joe Madon, Christopher Marcinkoski, Margaret McCurry, Julie Michiels, Maria Miller, Josh Mings, Ruta Misiunas, Andrew Moddrell, Juan Gabriel Moreno, Sean Myung, Anya Nair, Miriam Neet, Allison Newmeyer, Andrew Newmeyer, Angela Ngo, Marina Nicollier, Andrew Obendorf, Conor O’Shea, A. Melinda Palmore, Michael Pecirno, Verónica Pérez, Samra Qasim, David Ramis, Claudia Rodriguez, Jeisler Salunga, David Schalliol, Philip Schmidt, Matthew Schneider, Jack Schroeder, Don Semple, Werner Sobek, Dominik Soltys, Dan Spore, Drew Stanley, Phil Stott, Margaret Sullivan, Lindsey Telford, Stanley Tigerman, Austin Tsai, Chen-Han Tu, Aura Venckunaite, Fariha Wajid, Terran Wilson, Lukasz Wojnicz, Laura-Anne Wong, and Michael Wu.

We also want to extend our gratitude to other members of the studios that were featured in the exhibition as well as those that we toured during the studio visits.

Special thanks to Renata Graw and Alexa Viscius from Normal for designing the identity of the exhibition. For the design of this issue, Renata and Alexa worked in collaboration with Ansgar Kleem and Rafael Barontini.

Finally, thanks to Sarah Herda, Joseph Grima, and their team as well as Michelle Boone, Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), for the opportunity to curate and present this work during the inaugural Chicago Architectural Biennial.


Iker Gil is an architect, urban designer, and director of MAS Studio. In addition, he is the editor in chief of MAS Context. He is the editor of the book Shanghai Transforming (ACTAR, 2008) and has curated several exhibitions, most recently “BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago” as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. He is the recipient of the 2010 Emerging Visions Award from the Chicago Architectural Club and has been recognized as one of “Fifty Under Fifty: Innovators of the 21st Century” by a jury composed by Stanley Tigerman, Jeanne Gang, Qingyun Ma, and Marion Weiss. | @MASContext

BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago


BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago © Tom Harris Photography


Exhibition statement by Iker Gil, curator of BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago


Chicago is a fascinating city, a reference for many around the world. There are multiple reasons but one undoubtedly is its impressive architectural legacy. It is also a complex city, one facing social and economic challenges that manifest themselves in very tangible ways. As the city looks forward and works on addressing them, we question if there are alternative ways to think about its future and we wonder what architects can bring to the table.

The eighteen projects included in this exhibition explore new possibilities for the city of Chicago. Generated by both emerging and established Chicago-based architects and designers, these projects rethink the future of the city without the need to respond to a brief by a client. At the same time, it explores the agency of the architect in shaping these scenarios. While they are generated without a client, these projects operate fully aware of the constraints and realities of Chicago with the intention to engage in fruitful conversations with public and private agencies to shape its future.

The selection of projects offer alternative strategies to key issues present at multiple scales: regional studies exploring interconnected layers such as biodiversity dynamics, agricultural production, and hydrology; urban strategies addressing ecological and infrastructural challenges while providing a sustainable revenue stream and conceptualizing new civic possibilities; speculative proposals exploring the urban design potential of Chicago’s vacant lots; innovative high-rise typologies marrying the latest technology, economic motivations, and idealized urban domestic life; new forms of architecture (aesthetic, spatial, and social) embracing technology’s influence on human sensory perception and environmental control; and a reexamination of issues, such as the use of history in the design of architecture and contemporary ideas surrounding libraries and the city, sparked by a late entry to the 1987 Harold Washington Library Center competition. These projects present the issues at stake in Chicago and the architectural scenarios to address them.

But architects are not the only ones looking at the city. Other disciplines are exploring the same issues that architects are interested in but through different lenses — complementing, expanding, and even questioning our understanding of the city. To generate that exchange, two projects that chose photography and map-making as their medium are incorporated into the exhibition to provide a look at the current state of the city. These projects document our relationship with vacancy, questioning how we might bridge disparate experiences of vacancy and what the relationship between planning and informality is, as well as uncover the stories hidden in the city through the abstraction and isolation of big data.

The eighteen projects that are part of this exhibition, along with a series of related events, present an excellent opportunity to engage in public debates about the issues we face, the possibilities they present, and the challenges we need to overcome to make them happen. Eighteen ideas that have the potential to foster complex and fascinating conversations that carry on past the duration of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Eighteen scenarios that envision possible futures for Chicago.




“The explorations here posit a palpable group of ideas about how to design cities, with the focus on Chicago. What can investigations in a lively urban place like Chicago teach the rest of the world? BOLD embodies much of the Chicago-specific things about the Biennial, with a strong sense of place and a clear mission that translates globally.”
– Matt Shaw, Senior Editor of Architect’s Newspaper [1]


“One of the most successful aspects of the BOLD exhibition is that it started new conversations between both new generations of Chicago city officials and Chicago designers, both interested in challenging Chicago’s 21st century status quo.”
– Andrew Moddrell, Partner and Director of PORT Urbanism


“Chicago has deep, serious social and environmental issues that are intertwined with the current physical form of our city. BOLD gave voice to many of us who believe we can change the present trajectory of inequity in the quality of life for Chicagoans.”
– Brian Lee, Design Partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)


1. Matt Shaw, “Bold new visions for the future city take shape at the Chicago Architecture Biennial,” The Architect’s Newspaper, October 1, 2015.


Iker Gil is an architect, urban designer, and director of MAS Studio. In addition, he is the editor in chief of MAS Context. He is the editor of the book Shanghai Transforming (ACTAR, 2008) and has curated several exhibitions, most recently “BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago” as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. He is the recipient of the 2010 Emerging Visions Award from the Chicago Architectural Club and has been recognized as one of “Fifty Under Fifty: Innovators of the 21st Century” by a jury composed by Stanley Tigerman, Jeanne Gang, Qingyun Ma, and Marion Weiss. | @MASContext

Make Bold Plans, or Something Along Those Lines


BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago © David Schalliol


Notes on the BOLD Identity by Renata Graw, Founder of Normal


Last fall, the BOLD exhibition invited the public to explore architectural and urban planning alternatives for Chicago, the physical and intellectual opportunities that lie between the seemingly rigid constraints and conventions constructed in the city since its foundation 179 years ago.

Just as we have come to appreciate the efficiency of the orthogonal grid that organizes Chicago, we have become used to the graphical representation of time passing on a straight horizontal line. For the exhibition, we wanted to explore that relationship between time and line, projecting us into future while still being connected to the present.

We extended the horizontal lines to interrupt the conventional flow thus opening spaces in unexpected places. The (blanks) in the typography offer room for new ideas just as unused urban lots and ill-conceived plans are asking for better answers. Ultimately, it forces the visitors to pause and rethink.

Instead of confining the typography to the boundaries of the two-dimensional plane, we applied it onto three-dimensional objects within the exhibition. The visitor had to physically move around them to make sense of the collection of cryptic fragments and decipher the whole. We wanted to invite the visitors to explore and ask: Why?

Sometimes we need to stretch the conventions and assume different perspectives to see other futures.











The identity for BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago was awarded in the STA 100 competition organized in 2016 by the Society of Typographic Arts. For more information, please visit


NORMAL is a small, independent team of creative thinkers based in Chicago. Their work centers on the belief that thoughtfully designed experiences can have a profound impact on how people interpret the world, and that the most powerful experiences come from close collaboration between the client and the creators. | @TheNormalStudio

Reckoning with Vacancy


Reckoning with Vacancy © David Schalliol


Project by David Schalliol


In Chicago, where one lives affects how one understands vacancy.

In many North and near Northwest Side neighborhoods, vacancy heralds the construction of larger and more expensive buildings, while in many South and West Side neighborhoods vacancy is the harbinger of yet another derelict lot. The result is that while many Chicago neighborhoods are maintaining — if not gaining — density, other sections of the city are increasingly sparse.

Reckoning with Vacancy grapples with these divergent conditions by concentrating on the city’s South and West Sides, where the last several decades have brought major changes to the built environment and the communities that constitute and inhabit it. From coordinated efforts like the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation to the more chaotic effect of the Great Recession’s foreclosure crisis, these events have dramatically affected the neighborhoods many of us call home.

While some of the resulting vacant properties are targeted for long-term development or are being winded through the city’s vacant property ownership programs, the majority of these parcels are in an ambiguous position: either informally maintained by community members or derelict and seemingly up for grabs. How are we to understand such sites, and how can residents and municipal planners work with them? This orientation also allows us to engage broader puzzles related to the city’s future, including which factors determine vacancy in our cities, how we might bridge disparate experiences of vacancy, and how we might understand the relationship between planning and informality.
































David Schalliol is an assistant professor of sociology at St. Olaf College who explores the transformation of urban centers through hybrid ethnographic, filmic, and photographic projects. His work was recently featured in the Chicago Architecture Biennial, and in 2014 the Japanese publisher Utakatado released his first book, Isolated Building Studies. Schalliol contributed to Highrise: Out My Window, an interactive documentary that won the 2011 International Digital Emmy for Non-Fiction. His current film project, The Area, is about the displacement of more than 400 families by the expansion an intermodal freight terminal. | @metroblossom

Of All of the Facts, and All of the Figures


Of All of the Facts, and All of the Figures © David Schalliol


Project by Michael Pecirno


Over the past few years cities have rushed to quickly establish data stores and data portals; places in which anyone with internet access can log on, download a dataset, and often, visualize them directly in-browser. This data can be anything that fits neatly into a spreadsheet, and its topic can range from the locations of police stations to lists of “problem landlords.” But aside from an act of novelty or neat visualization, what does it all mean? Can these spreadsheets change the way we perceive our cities, or are they just a trend fueled by the buzzword “big data”?

Of All of the Facts, and All of the Figures takes a dive into various data portals to find out what spreadsheets can tell us about our city, region, and state. What can happen when we begin to look at vignettes of the city with only a single feature mapped? Free from the ubiquitous political map background, can they tell us something more about our city? Through the abstraction and isolation of big data, we find that the city begins to tell a story too often obscured by geography, boundaries, and our own history. By refining the chaos of information into minimal statements, patterns never before seen emerge and perhaps a greater understanding of our landscape evolves.






















Data from: USDA, USGS, NRCS, NASS, APFO, National Geospatial Center of Excellence, and the Prairie Research Institute.


Michael Pecirno is a London-based designer whose work focuses on storytelling through visual and built experiences. His work crosses the boundaries of traditional design disciplines in order to create enriched objects, spaces, and ideas. Pecirno has been an invited research fellow and scholarship recipient at multiple institutions, including the Architectural Association in London, and Archeworks School of Design in Chicago. His work and writing have been featured in Wired Magazine, Gizmodo, The Washington Post, and numerous other spaces and publications. | @mpecirno

Logistical Ecologies


Logistical Ecologies © Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape


Project by Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape with MODUS Collective


Even for those of us who may be focused on the cities as zones of intervention, we can’t understand what is going on within them unless we look outside them, far outside them. [1]
—Neil Brenner


Logistical Ecologies is an urbanization strategy for northeastern Illinois derived from planetary logistics networks and regional ecologies with an emphasis on biodiversity, agriculture, and hydrology. The strategy colocates housing, retail, warehousing, distribution facilities, and intermodal freight facilities to leverage dynamic environmental processes, regional land uses, and transportation infrastructure.

Background: Since the deregulation of the transportation industry in the 1980s, the use of the shipping container for transporting goods manufactured in newly industrializing Asian countries to sites of consumption in the United States has transformed swathes of North America’s hinterlands into vast logistics landscapes. This back-stage network of rails, warehousing, and distribution facilities sustains the front-stage lifestyles commonly occurring within municipal city boundaries.

Logistical Ecologies develops analytical categories rooted in the fields of ecology, landscape architecture, transportation geography, and critical urban theory to uncover new methods for design and sites of intervention for their deployment. By confronting the complexities of twenty-first century urbanization head on, the strategy is both a critique of and an alternative to design’s existing theoretical frameworks.




With even modest projections indicating that containerized freight throughput at United States coastal ports will more than double by 2030, the North American hinterland is poised to be radically transformed by the construction of expanded logistical infrastructures like double-stack corridors and intermodal freight facilities. [2] Nowhere in the United States will these effects be felt more acutely than in northeastern Illinois, where six of North America’s seven Class I railroads meet. The importance of this region in national and planetary logistics networks is exemplified by the adjacent inland ports of Joliet, IL (Global IV, Union Pacific) and Elwood (Logistics Park, BNSF), constituting the third largest container port in the United States; this inland behemoth lags only behind the coastal Port of Long Beach / Port of Los Angeles and the Port of New York and New Jersey. [3] While nearly half of the containers passing through the region annually are destined for other domestic or international markets, the rest originates or is consumed in the region. [4]

As we move forward into an era of unpredictable climates, increasingly frequent storm events, new biodiversity trends, and ongoing pollution from the agro-industry, these logistical transformations and the market-driven development they enable—all largely devoid of ecological and hydrological sensitivity—put our economic and ecological future at great risk.

Logistical Ecologies is an alternative strategy for urbanizing northeastern Illinois in response to these issues. It is not only aware of hydrological and ecological concerns, but uses them as the very drivers of new processes of urbanization. The strategy comprises three phases.



Logistical Watersheds
As volumes of containerized freight in the United States continue rising, developers and railroads in northeastern Illinois are building larger intermodal freight facilities beyond Chicago’s historic core. Combined with the rail and highway infrastructure binding them together, these new inland ports (#3, #18, #19) enable 21st century urbanization in the region.



The Bison Mosaic is the primary organizing framework for the strategy, and is established over a ten-year period by converting underperforming and degraded cropland into tallgrass prairie and wetlands. The conversion, initiated by prescribed prairie burns and perpetuated by a combination of burns and bison grazing, gradually connects existing regional bison strongholds at Nachusa Grasslands and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.


Freeport Central
A prescribed prairie burn converts degraded cropland into the Bison Mosaic near the Freeport Central clustered development. A riparian corridor buffers fire from an expanded double-stack corridor, slows down stormwater, and curbs topsoil erosion. Over time a regenerated tallgrass prairie is monitored for transition back into cropland. Bison (Bison bison) roam freely.




The second phase begins ten years after the Bison Mosaic takes shape and proposes the clustering of hybrid logistical developments along heavily-used double-stack rail corridors that cross the interface between the most and least profitable agricultural land in northeastern Illinois. The typologies are combinations of residential, commercial, and agro-industrial buildings directly connected operationally, and in close physical proximity, to an intermodal freight facility and associated warehousing and distribution facilities. These programs and their architectural forms are hybridized through a series of ecological relationships. Each set of adjacencies leverages ecological and economic processes to produce new public space and new settlement typologies, helping accommodate projected pressure from increased containerized imports and population increase.


Kittredge Median
Buildings at Kittredge Median help direct stormwater towards nearby croplands, while bison (Bison bison) enrich soils through patch grazing and creating wallows. Over time the wallows—created by bison dust bathing—become seasonal pools and attract other animals. Milkweed species (Asclepias spp.) planted beside transportation infrastructure creates Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) habitat.




As clustered logistical developments continue to take form, now intertwined ecologically and economically with regional and planetary logistics networks, ongoing efforts to monitor crop suitability within a changing climate and prairie / cropland rotation continues.


Camanche Lateral
Agricultural products are passed through grain transloading facilities at the Camanche Lateral to fill empty containers for export to markets in Asia. Recreational bike paths wind through tallgrass prairie where bison (Bison bison) graze nearby, enriching soils. Over time this prairie will again become cropland, as it cycles between ecological and economic uses.







1. Genoa Transect
Located in the Kishwaukee watershed in Northern Dekalb County, this early logistical development leverages the interface of cropland, the Bison Mosaic, and an expanded east-west Canadian Pacific and Canadian National double-stack corridor intersection. [pop. 1,000,000; 4 million TEUs / year]

2. Deer Grove Extension
Located in the Green watershed along the border of Whiteside, Lee, and Bureau Counties, this second logistical development is smaller in size than the first. Deer Grove Extension straddles a newly expanded Union Pacific north-south line, taking advantage of the interface between the Bison Mosaic and productive cropland. [pop. 250,000; 1 million TEUs / year]

3. Freeport Central
Located in the Rock watershed between present-day Freeport and Rockford along an expanded east-west CN double-stack corridor, Freeport Central leverages the interface of the Bison Mosaic, productive cropland, and existing transportation infrastructure. [pop. 250,000, 1 million TEUs / year]

4. Kittredge Median
Straddling the Mississippi and Rock watersheds in northwestern Carroll County, the Kittredge Median is a linear development along an expanded east-west Canadian Pacific Railway corridor. Given its dual watershed location, this development has significant hydrological potential. [pop. 250,000, 1 million TEUs / year]

5. Camanche Lateral
As the Bison Mosaic expands, outlying clusters of logistical developments like the Camanche Lateral are made possible. Located in the Mississippi watershed in eastern Clinton County, Iowa, along an expanded Union Pacific east-west line, this hybridized settlement typology is unique due to its location along the Mississippi River, allowing it to enhance waterborne and terrestrial freight opportunities. [pop. 1,500,000, 6 million TEUs / year]

6. Kankakee Easterly
At the outskirts of the Bison Mosaic in Kankakee County, the Kankakee Easterly straddles the Kankakee and Grundy watersheds along the Norfolk Southern and CSX east-west line. This linear logistical development interfaces leverages the prairie / cropland interface as well as a thick web of highways, rail, and the Kankakee River. [pop. 750,000, 3 million TEUs / year]


1. Neil Brenner, “Wildly Civilized: Ecological + Extreme + Planetary Urbanism…What’s Next?” (moderated panel, Harvard Graduate School of Design, September 13, 2014).

2. “Projected growth in the US economy and historical trends at US ports suggest that port container traffic will double by 2020 and triple by 2030… even if the growth rate falls to four percent, container traffic could still more than double by 2030.” US Maritime Administration (MARAD), America’s Ports and Intermodal Transportation System (January 2009), 59,

3. Intermodal freight facilities are coastal or inland ports where containers transfer between ship and train, train and train, or train and truck. The total number of containers moving through a port is referred to as the throughput or as twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Most containers are at least 40 feet long, counting as two TEUs. CenterPoint Intermodal Center–Joliet/Elwood, with a capacity for 6 million TEUs, is the largest inland port in North America. The Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach have a combined annual throughput of 14.1 million TEUs. The Port of New York and New Jersey has an annual throughput of 5.5 million TEUs. The entire Chicago region’s annual throughput is over 5 million TEUs. Coastal Ports: American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), “NAFTA Region Container Traffic Port Ranking 2012,” accessed April 2014, Eric Gilbert, “Joliet Arsenal Redevelopment: A Public-Private Partnership Success Story,” (presentation, CenterPoint Intermodal Center–Joliet/Elwood, June 13, 2013). Chicago regional total throughput: American Association of Railroads (AAR). “Top 15 Markets for Intermodal Traffic Handled in the United States in 2011,” Rail Intermodal Keeps America Moving.

4. Cambridge Systematics, Inc. with Vicki W. Bretthauer and Carl D. Martland “Regional Freight System Planning Recommendations Study” (June 30, 2010).


Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape
Conor O’Shea (Founder and Principal) and Chris Bennett (Architectural Collaborator).

MODUS Collective
Luke Hegeman (Founder).


Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape is design research office founded by Conor O’Shea in 2014. O’Shea is a landscape designer and urbanist based in Chicago, Illinois, where he is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Master of Landscape Architecture program in the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. His current research uses critical urban theory to inform contemporary landscape architectural theory and design research. | @ceoshea773

Filter Island


Filter Island © Iker Gil


Project by UrbanLab


In the 1909 Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham hybridized infrastructure and public amenity when he proposed combining roadways, railroads, and harbors with a continuous landscape of park and public buildings along Chicago’s lakefront. A decade before, Chicago’s engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan to prevent the river’s pollution from contaminating the lake. Today, Chicago faces new challenges. Because the Chicago River acts as an overflow for the city’s sewer system, raw sewage overflows into Lake Michigan every time there is a severe rainstorm.

It’s time to redesign the river. Our project—Filter Island—springs from Chicago’s legacy of leveraging infrastructural improvements to create new civic space. The first step is to dam the Chicago River and remove the existing lock system. Because the river will once again flow into the lake, a new infrastructure is needed to remove pollutants.

Filter Island cleans the new Chicago River by filtering pollutants in a series of large-scale biocells. Polluted water flows from the river into Filter Island over a shallow waterfall at the northern edge of the new island. Through a series of wetlands and biopools, polluted water is cleaned of contaminates before being discharged into the lake. The ratio of water cleansing landscape to park program landscape flips as the park extends southward. Park programs range from wetlands, marshes, and fields to swimming pools, water parks, sports fields, and playgrounds. The whole island is wrapped in beaches and breakwaters. A new dry-dock transfer exchange accommodates boat traffic between the river and the lake.

In keeping with Burnham’s legacy, Filter Island is a hybridized landscape, combining infrastructure with cultural space.



Waterways Before © UrbanLab



Waterways After © UrbanLab



Program Aggregations © UrbanLab



Program Aggregations © UrbanLab



Plan © UrbanLab



Water Flow © UrbanLab



Water Cleaning © UrbanLab



Program Distribution © UrbanLab



Program © UrbanLab



Program © UrbanLab



Filter Island © UrbanLab



Filter Island flooded © UrbanLab



Filter Island model © David Schalliol



Filter Island model (Detail) © David Schalliol



Filter Island model (Detail) © David Schalliol



Filter Island model (Detail) © David Schalliol


Sarah Dunn + Martin Felsen with Jeffrey Macias, Matthew Busscher, Matthew Schneider, Aishwarya Keshav, Anya Nair, Austin Tsai, and Michelangelo La Tona.

Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.


UrbanLab is a research-based architecture and urban design practice led by Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen. UrbanLab strives to respond to the complexity, growth, and unintended consequences of the modern city by developing catalogues of architectural, infrastructural, and urbanistic design strategies. UrbanLab’s projects range from urban infrastructural plans to buildings and architecture proposals. In parallel, Felsen and Dunn are principal investigators for funded research focusing on public space, infrastructure, and resources in American (and American-style) cities and megaregions. Dunn is an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Felsen is the Director of Landscape and Urbanism at the Illinois Institute of Technology. | @TeamUrbanLab

The Big Shift


The Big Shift © PORT Urbanism


Project by PORT Urbanism


One of Chicago’s greatest civic assets is its lakefront. However, since new development is prohibited east of Lake Shore Drive (LSD), the city has been hindered in its ability to fundamentally enhance this territory. This is a missed opportunity.

The Big Shift imagines a scenario wherein Chicago embraces the lakefront’s latent potential by proposing a dramatic, yet conceptually simple infrastructural transformation. By shifting the 1.5-mile stretch of LSD running along Grant Park eastward, the city could create hundreds of acres of new lakefront real estate—importantly, west of LSD—that would generate enormous long-term revenue streams, despite the significant upfront infrastructural costs of the endeavor. Further, the “shift” would allow for the reconfiguration of LSD—changing its alignment and sinking portions of it to reduce its adverse impact on pedestrian and bike access to the lakefront.

More significantly, the project would serve to enhance two of Chicago’s most beloved public spaces. A fourth street wall would frame the east side of Grant Park, while stately, tree-lined boulevards would connect from the west side of the existing park across the new development district to a world-class 130-acre public waterfront. This newly configured lakefront would include softly rolling topography, beaches, spaces of prospect and refuge, as well as generous planting and furnishing. The proposal would more than triple the size of the current lakefront adjacent to Grant Park, providing the recreational amenities now missing from the area.

Simply put, The Big Shift imagines a scenario where a public infrastructural renovation is leveraged to create urgently needed municipal revenue sources while simultaneously enhancing and expanding Chicago’s most important public spaces and civic assets.









Forever open, clear, and free…sometimes. Although popularly considered “forever open, clear, and free,” Chicago’s lakefront has actually been in a constant state of transformation throughout the last 150 years. These various alterations have resulted in the creation of more than 1,000 acres of new land, the construction of dozens of buildings, and continued domination by changing configurations of Lake Shore Drive.




Existing Public Realm
Of the 252-acres comprising the Grant Park complex, approx. 45- acres (nearly 20%) are consumed by transportation infrastructures like roads and rail lines. The result is a disjointed, fragmented public realm. While significant institutions and civic spaces reside within the park, the overall state of the complex is deficient. The narrow lake edge along Monroe Harbor is particularly inadequate from a public amenity perspective.




Lake Shore Drive
No element dominates Chicago’s lakefront to a greater degree than Lake Shore Drive. For example, South Lake Shore Drive running along the eastern edge of Grant Park ranges from 8 to 12 lanes of vehicular traffic. This represents an approximately 125-foot wide barrier to lakefront access. No single urbanistic modification would have a greater impact on the quality of Chicago’s waterfront public realm and Grant park than reconfiguring the current alignment of Lake Shore Drive.




The Big Shift
We propose to realign Lake Shore Drive, separating local traffic onto a new winding at-grade boulevard, and allowing through traffic to bypass the park via a new vehicular tunnel. Such a modification has the potential to create more than 240-acres of new waterfront real estate capable of funding both the reconfigured roadway, and the enhancement and renovation of Grant Park.




Iconic Lake Front + Enhanced Connectivity
Our proposed reconfiguration of Lake Shore Drive would also generate the opportunity to create one of the world’s great public waterfronts at the center of the city, befitting of Chicago’s past urbanistic accomplishments and current global status. This new lake front district would become the centerpiece of Chicago’s 21st century evolution.




A Transformational Proposition
The Big Shift imagines a scenario where a major public infrastructural renovation is leveraged to create urgently needed municipal revenue sources while enhancing and expanding Chicago’s most important public spaces and civic assets.




Block Structure + F.A.R



Illustrated Floor Area Ratios Range (FAR)



Proposed Lake Shore Drive Reconfiguration



Proposed Lakefront District Road Hierarchy



Proposed Lakefront District Road Hierarchy



Proposed Land Reclamation + Development Phasing



Planting Surfaces + Canopy Palette



Primary Lakefront Circulation




Birdseye View Looking West © PORT Urbanism



Lakefront Promenade © PORT Urbanism



Great Lawn at Lakefront © PORT Urbanism



Congress Gardens Approaching Lake © PORT Urbanism



The Big Shift © David Schalliol


PORT Urbanism
Christopher Marcinkoski, Andrew Moddrell, Brandon Biederman, Selina Chiu, Laura-Anne Wong, Ryan Hernandez, Alex Culler, and Chi Yin Lee.


PORT is a design consultancy based in Chicago, and founded by Andrew Moddrell and Christopher Marcinkoski in 2010. Drawing from a collective background in contemporary urban issues, the practice specializes in new forms of collective space ranging from plazas and public waterfronts to framework plans and regional planning strategies. With projects in Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, PORT’s work has been the recipient of a number of professional awards including an AIA Award in 2014 for the Denver Parks and Recreation City Loop project. | @porturbanism

Second Sun


Second Sun © David Schalliol


Project by WEATHERS


Two of the greatest pressures on society today include humanity’s manipulation of the environment and the advancements in bioengineering of the human body. The first is changing the makeup of the physical spaces we occupy and the second, the very body that senses that environment. At this intersection are the physical boundaries that create architectural space. Integrating these two quickly advancing industries as the epicenter of architectural design can open the possibilities of the disciplines spatial, social, and environmental discourse.

The urban public park is the backbone of leisure, recreation, health, and community engagement. Nowhere is this more apparent and clearly demonstrated than in Chicago during the summer months. Yet as climate change continues and technologies open the possibilities of how our bodies communicate with our environment, parks are still seen as passive spaces subject to local weather and an outmoded definition of the human body. Second Sun takes street lighting as a starting point, layering additional forms of energy (thermal, acoustic, electromagnetic, chemical) in an attempt to give shape to a new architecture.

As advancements in steel, glass, and concrete have shown before, new materials can do more than reproduce existing architecture — they form a dialogue with emerging social and political pressures to produce new spaces, aesthetics, and social engagements. Second Sun places architecture at the center of today’s pressures to engage and inform the industries and policies that will give shape to our environment, our bodies, and the spaces we call architecture.




Chicago, IL
November 01, 2015
4:30 pm

Existing Site Conditions:
Temperature: 42 F
Wind Chill: 32 F
Dew Point: 29 F
Humidity: 60 %
Pressure: 30.4 in
Visibility: 10.0 mi
Wind Direction: ENE
Wind Speed: 8.1 mph
Precipitation: 0.2 in
Partly Cloudy










Sean Lally, Marina Nicollier, Veronica Gomez, Angela Ngo, and Maged Guerguis.


WEATHERS is a Chicago-based design office founded by architect Sean Lally. Lally is the author of the recently published book The Air from Other Planets: A Brief History of Architecture to Come (Lars Müller Publishers, 2014). He is the recipient of the 2012 Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture from the American Academy in Rome and the winner of the 2012 Architectural League Prize for Young Architects and Designers. | @Sean_Lally

Late Entry to the Chicago Public Library Competition


Late Entry to the Chicago Public Library Competition © David Schalliol


Project by Design With Company


This Late Entry to the Chicago Public Library Competition uses the parameters of the 1987 architectural competition as a framework to reexamine issues at stake not only in the original design prompt, but also: the choice of the winning scheme, the use of history in the design of architecture, and contemporary ideas surrounding libraries and the city. The Late Entry format borrows from Claes Oldenburg’s Late Entry to the Chicago Tribune Tower Competition as well as Stanley Tigerman’s exhibition of the same name from 1980. With this reboot, we are drawing a connection between the Tribune Tower and the Public Library competitions, each of which have been instrumental in shaping attitudes toward architecture in Chicago. Both competitions resulted in buildings that self-consciously deploy historical forms and ornament to communicate with the public.

Certain architects and writers have been critical of these outcomes, with Stanley Tigerman quoted as saying, “By selecting that scheme [the winning design for the Chicago Public Library], it sends Chicago backwards, away from its own future precisely the way the Tribune Competition and the Columbian Exposition did.” [1] This project contends explicitly with Tigerman’s, not necessarily to correct or solve the problem, but to revisit the polemic in a revealing and contemporary way. It presents two dozen late entries in the form of a single building. The result is a building that behaves like a city, playing on scale, legibility, and narrative.










1. Triumphal Arch
In the information age, the physicality of the library is no longer necessary for book storage. In its place, the building can be liberated as a pure civic monument. Triumphal Arch casts the existing library building and flips it inside out. What was solid is now void as a monumental absence in the city of Chicago.



2. Empty Frame
Stripping the library from all its adornment, we are left with an empty frame. Is it a frame for a new building or one awaiting demolition? A ghost or an infant? Is it Miesian at heart (or would it be in skeleton)?



3. Child’s Play
“Cartoon Classicism,” people have declared about the Beeby design. Children’s blocks can be a tool for play and profound invention. What’s wrong with a good cartoon plopped into our realistic city? It might brighten our day with some surreal juxtapositions.



4. An Arch of Any Other Name
The library draws reference from certain buildings like the Biblioteque St. Genevieve and the Art Institute of Chicago. This proposal uses the same diagram as the Hammond Beeby and Babka design but substitutes other historical arches like the Sullivan Transportation Building, etc.



5. Unopened Proposal
This proposal has sat, unopened in its crate, for twenty-eight years. What is inside there? How disappointing it was never considered. How intriguing. Why wasn’t it opened?



6. Escalating the Library
From the project brief: “There should be open sided escalators to all public floors. This will allow patron “shopping” of the collections from the escalators, similar in function to a Department Store escalator…”



7. Navy Pier’s Ferris Wheel
Navy Pier is getting a new Wheel, we propose to use the old one for the library. Read while tracing a circle in the sky. Up and down, back to where you began. What could be a better metaphor for a library than a ferris wheel?



8. Blow it up
How much does your building weigh Mr. Beeby? There was a certain amount of initial argumentation about the “meaning” of the balloon, this subsided, because we have learned not to insist on meanings, and they are rarely even looked for now, except in cases involving the simplest, safest phenomena.



9. Hoo Who?
Owls represent wisdom and knowledge. They sit perched atop the Harold Washington Library watching over the city. The owls are the most distinctive part of the building, so we’re proposing to make the entire thing from a parliament of owls.



10. Aircraft Carrier
Why keep books in a building downtown? Real estate is too valuable to devote so much space to the storage of books. We propose building a small airport for book delivery on top of a building. See Hans Hollein.



11. Parking Garage for Bookmobiles
Why does the city need a static library at all? While awaiting construction, the books were stored in a warehouse outside the city. The books could always be moving. Never settled, always moving.



12. Parks!
Parks were the most publicly requested design feature during the Chicago Public Library competition. This multilayer park multiplies the ground plane to achieve a layer cake of outdoor programs. Maybe it isn’t the best design for a library, but it’s definitely a great place to read.



13. Terrarium
Rather than consuming trees, we could grow them. Paper books are relics of the past, texts are read digitally. What would be better than reading in a forest in the middle of downtown Chicago?



14. Upside
The roof is the best part of the Harold Washington Library. However, it is only visible from far away. Pedestrians are greeted by a massive fortress at ground level. Why not put the best part on the ground so the public can see and use it?



15. Library Scrolls
Literally read the library. Container and contained collapse into a single object. Texts, both physical and ephemeral, merge into a conglomerate of legibility. Chicagoans begin eating lunch nearby to catch today’s story. Writers develop new material just for this site. A new genre of literature develops.



16. Buttons and Tufts
Adorning the top of the Harold Washington Library are a series of large-scale buttons that appear to be holding down the roof. What if the entire library looked like a tufted piece of furniture that makes use of these buttons?



17. Jahn the Beeby
Helmut Jahn’s proposal for the Chicago Public Library Competition featured an elevated building spanning the ‘L’ train tracks. Underneath was a public space with large objects housing various programs. Can this design strategy be applied to the current library?



18. The Titanic
This is a challenge to architects. Either bury history as a source of legitimation, or be doomed to repeat it.



19. Prentice’s Ghost
In 2014, Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital building was torn down at the hands of Northwestern University. It was a controversial situation. Even Frank Gehry wrote a letter to try and save it. Why not bring it back as a library?



20. Trimmed Out
One issue that confuses people about the existing design is how out of scale it is with the rest of the city and with the pedestrians on the street. Trimmed out takes elements that are typically associated with interiors, scales them up, and turns it inside out.



21. Mining the Cultural Center
The building that is now known as the Cultural Center was once the home of the Chicago Public Library. Why not mine it for parts? They can be paraded through the city, to be reconstructed on the site of the new library. Of course, it is smaller than the new one, so we would have to supplement it a little…



The public was up in arms when the TRUMP sign was installed along the Chicago River. The library could feed off the controversy to establish relevance again. The city can offer naming rights in the tradition of sports stadiums. Sell the parking meters, sell the library name…



23. Ancient History
The Beeby library design references historical buildings by looking like them. Why stop with a new building that looks like old ones? Why not make it a ruin? Everybody loves a good ruin, especially the picturesque kind.



24. Drape
A bag over its head? A shroud? Will there be an unveiling? Is it dead? New or old, it is up to you.














Design Wars,” Season 17, Episode 3 of NOVA, PBS, October 17, 1989.


Design With Company
Stewart Hicks, Allison Newmeyer, Claire Gaspin, France La, Obed Lopez, Andrew Newmeyer, and Jeisler Salunga.


Design With Company (Dw/Co) is the Chicago-based architectural collaborative of Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer. Dw/Co seeks to transform the world through textual and visual narratives, speculative urban scenarios, installations, and small-scale interactive constructions. Hicks is currently an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Newmeyer is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and also teaches at the University of Wisconsin‚ Milwaukee, and the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Both of them are fellows of the MacDowell Artist Colony and recipients of Architectural Record‘s Design Vanguard Award and the Young Architect’s Forum Prize. | @designwithco

The High Life


The High Life © David Schalliol


Project by SOM and CAMESgibson


The High Life is a proposal for novel domestic arrangements made possible by a new residential high-rise building type that allows the broadest range of housing options in the urban tower. Seeking to indirectly address some of the pressing problems of urban life in Chicago’s neighborhoods, this alternative building type is born from three bold ideas:

1. A Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) zoning initiative within 900’ of all CTA and Metra stations in under-developed neighborhoods allows building heights of 450’ and unlimited floor area ratio (FAR) when unit price points are guaranteed to be representative of wealth distribution of the city as a whole.

2. A small footprint “tree trunk” structure can allow for a flexible and inclusive range of housing types and lifestyles. Anything from micro apartments to the single-family house can be accommodated in a vertical aggregation of idealized and personalized dwellings at the density of the city.

3. The tower’s systems and innovative structure are a neighborhood chassis that turns the building core into a new vertical public domain with privately owned cantilevered trays. This arrangement would operate the same way streets and city blocks are constructed with speculative lots being sold to individuals to do as they please (within the rules of the codes).

The range of flexibility and architectural character that this building type could assume is apparent in this presentation. The model offers a gracefully minimal version that allows the essential building principals to be understood through the tower’s composition of an additive manufactured compression core, outriggers, and self-actuating tension members with trays for idealized homes and gardens. Meanwhile, the drawing of a number of towers eludes to the proposal’s acceptance of a somewhat haphazard diversity and potential vitality common to socially and economically resilient neighborhoods.




























Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
Brian Lee, Bill Baker, Andrew Obendorf, Benton Johnson, Anthony Dombrowski, and Jacob Gay.

Grant Gibson, Aura Venckunaite, and Drew Stanley.


Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is one of the world’s leading architecture, engineering, urban planning, and interior design firms. Founded in Chicago nearly eighty years ago, the firm has completed more than 10,000 projects across fifty countries. The portfolio includes some of the most important design accomplishments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, ranging from the plan of Chicago’s Millennium Park and London’s Canary Wharf, to civic structures such as the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., to towers including Chicago’s John Hancock Center and Willis Tower, New York’s One World Trade Center, and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. | @SOM_Design

CAMESgibson is an architecture and design practice based in Chicago. Founded in 2009 by Grant Gibson and the fictitious T.E. Cames, the firm produces critical work that blends modern enthusiasm and postmodern irony. Grant Gibson is clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture. | @CAMESgibson

The Available City


The Available City © David Brown


Project by David Brown


The Available City is an ongoing exploration of the City of Chicago’s ownership of 13,000 vacant lots as an opportunity to impact an area twice the size of the Loop through the lot—the smallest increment of the city grid. Considering the city-owned lots as a set, The Available City proposes a publicly accessible collective space system in which each city-owned lot has potential as a surface element—a softscape, hardscape, or small building by a local nonprofit organization or the city—in that system, while those adjacent to privately owned vacant lots have additional potential to provide volumes of collective space within buildings on 2–5 lots. Those buildings receive more footprint and square footage allowances than zoning permits through the provision of publicly accessible volumes of collective space within the building with a surface area that equals, if not exceeds, the area of the city lots. The Available City is thus an urban proposition comprised of up to 13,000 local effects.

Each collective space within The Available City—designed to be flexible, nonhierarchical, incremental, open ended, and variable in outcome—is independently complete and viable, yet gains in impact as instances of collective space increase and entwine. With components and provisions that enable multiple interests and scales—resident, developer, neighborhood, ward, and city—to address various concerns and needs, The Available City solicits wide participation in speculation of what this new collective space—and consequently the neighborhoods and wards in which the city-owned lots are most prevalent—could be.


Chicago City-Owned and Surrounding Privately Owned Vacant Lots




Aggregate Size



Variable Lot Potentials




Intensive development of surfaces or four story or less buildings, on combinations of city and private land, creates a set of collective spaces equal in size to the Loop.






Intensive development of buildings above five stories provides a set of collective spaces greater than the size of the Loop.






Spaces and Chambers




Click here for larger view



A periodic table of prompts—moving from aspects of form, across qualities and characteristics, to program and activity—to enable individuals and groups to think expansively about the opportunities and associations available within up to 13,000 surfaces and volumes of collective space.


Shape and Pattern Play

Organizations of a selection of prompts for Collective Space Surfaces and Chambers.



Quilt 1 (left) and Quilt 2 (right) © David Brown



Boat Tangram (left) and Duck Tangram (right) © David Brown


Softscapes, hardscapes and small buildings provide a collective space conditioned by the work activity or opportunities introduced by the form accommodating that activity. Each should include a small workspace if the primary activity does not provide such space.


Surface Types: Softscapes




Surface Types: Hardscapes




Surface Types: Buildings






Fence structures or other elements that block entry onto a lot. They are not unlike the bollards the city uses. However, they are more sculptural and might provide activities along the street and alley edges or provide side spaces for the adjacent neighbors.


Surface Types: Fills




Distributed surfaces work in conjunction with others to operate as a dispersed network for activities such as farming, water detention, or power generation.


Surface Types: Distributed




4 Stories and Below: L Building (Column 1 and 2)
Studies of the form to shape the collective space.

4 Stories and Below: Modular (Column 3 and 4)
Studies of modular components to form collective space.




4 Stories and Below: Surface Variations
Studies of the influence of the collective space on the siting of a building form.




4 Stories and Above: Form Implications of the Collective Space Volume Rules





Chambers (Column 1 and 2)
Ready-made collective space volumes that can be used in an additive approach to designing the collective space within a building.

Chamber-Based Building Studies (Column 3 and 4)




4 Stories and Above: Possible Massings for All City+Private Combinations












Switch-a-Shape © David Schalliol


Cady Chintis, Matt Van Der Ploeg, and Christina Stamatoukos.

General Design Proposition and Design Development
Jared Macken and Lyndsay Pepple.

Design Development
George Louras, Jared Macken, Cole Monaghan, Ji Noh, Tafhim Rahman, Matthew Schneider, and Jenna Wolf.

Scapes and Chambers
Collaboration with Dept US (Adrianne Joergensen, Jason Mould, and Meghan Funk).

2012 Venice Architecture Biennale
Jacob Comerci, Nicholas Krause, George Louras, Cole Monaghan, Roy Mwale, Lyndsay Pepple, Tafhim Rahman, Mark Rowntree, Julia Sedlock, and Jenna Wolf.

2d—Matthew Schneider,3d—David Ramis.

Chicago Architecture Biennial
Stephen Adzemovic, Caroline Grebner, David Ramis, and Samra Qasim.


David Brown’s current design research, writing, and teaching explore process-oriented approaches to urban design and the city. Brown is author of Noise Orders: Jazz, Improvisation, and Architecture (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), a study of the design implications of structures that facilitate improvisation in jazz, and co-edited Row: Trajectories Through the Shotgun House (Architecture at Rice, 2004). He is associate professor and the associate director at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture.

Making Architecture That Heals


Making Architecture That Heals © David Schalliol


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by 3D Design Studio


The voids that exist in our city are symptoms of a larger multi-layered condition that is destroying communities and sapping life from the people who live there. Architecture has the ability to promote growth and healing in these communities where vacant lots and buildings stand as visible signs of the wounds inflicted.

Within the context of The Available City our proposal is to create a place that promotes healing. Our MATH Technology Center provides an environment where learning, teaching, and collaboration reactivate a community. The five major elements of outdoor collective/performance space, upper outdoor terrace, interior collective space, classrooms and a pop-up for use as an economic engine for the programs, and community provide the path to healing.

The “Collective Spaces” are like a salve wrapped by architectural bandages to accelerate the healing process. The intentionally small footprint is designed to facilitate collaboration and promote use.




















3D Design Studio A. Melinda Palmore and Darryl G. Crosby.


3D Design Studio was founded in 1997 by A. Melinda Palmore and Darryl G. Crosby in order to pursue their desire to bring a renewed energy and design philosophy to projects responding to urban and inner city environments. Architecture is a critical practice that endeavors to recover/discover the mystery of the ordinary. Everyday materials take on new meaning, reveling in their power to create new symbols and emotions. It communicates language and culture through literal and abstract phenomenon, adding texture and changing scale. Then finally giving rest to the mind and soul through a beautiful blend of all that is possible. Architecture at its best, captures the soul of the client and elevates the designer to new heights of understanding about the importance of his/her craft.

Forum Pavilion


Forum Pavilion © Travis Roozée


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by Ania Jaworska


Forum Pavilion provides a framework for leisurely community gatherings. Drawing inspiration from disparate sources, such as the traditional Roman forum and the common area of a residential high-rise apartment building, Forum Pavilion is an accessible space for neighborhood pastime. The pavilion functions as a space somewhere between a living room and a public plaza or a backyard and a park. Its shared areas host semi-private activities such as block parties, barbeques, hangouts, or afternoon tea with a neighbor. The pavilion combines indoor and outdoor space, independent activities along with small vendors. The attractive form serves as an encouragement for public assembly within a typical Chicago neighborhood.



Axonometric © Ania Jaworksa



Axonometric (detail) © Ania Jaworksa



Plan © Ania Jaworksa



Plan (Detail) © Ania Jaworksa



Sections © Ania Jaworksa



Sections (Detail) © Ania Jaworksa



Forum Pavilion model © Travis_Rozzee



Forum Pavilion model and boards © David Schalliol


Ania Jaworska is an architect and educator. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Architecture. Her practice focuses on exploring the connection between art and architecture and her work explores bold simple forms, humor, commentary and conceptual, historic, and cultural references. Jaworska’s work was presented as part of Grounds for Detroit in the 13th Venice Biennale (2012), CHGO DSGN exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center (2014), and her solo show BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Ania Jaworska at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.



Cut/Fill © David Schalliol


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by Central Standard Office of Design


Working from and expanding on the zoning guidelines set forth by David Brown’s The Available City project, Cut/Fill takes cues from Brown’s proposed shift from typical city planning quantifications of floor area ratios and square footage zoning codes toward a qualification of relationships between private building volumes and public collective surfaces. Cut/Fill zooms in on corner lot conditions in the City of Chicago and expands on their inherent multiplicity and potential exaggeration of access points, frontality, and public iconicity. The proposal reorganizes a set of five adjacent individual lots from 25′ x 125′ strands to a shared 30′ x 30′ patchwork grid in order to produce spatial hybridization and programmatic slippage between public collective surfaces and private multi-family housing volumes. Cut/Fill adapts techniques from earthmoving to relocate existing ground matter for use in the labor-efficient and sustainable construction of eight housing units, expanding on the notion of material availability in an urban context.



Urban Cut/Fill. From Strands © Central Standard Office of Design



Urban Cut/Fill. From Strands (3 private lots + 2 city lots) © Central Standard Office of Design



Urban Cut/Fill. To Grids © Central Standard Office of Design



Urban Cut/Fill. To Grids (3 private lots + 2 city lots) © Central Standard Office of Design



Urban Cut/Fill. From Square Footage to Cubic Volume © Central Standard Office of Design



Building & Collective Space Cut/Fill. Building Volume to Surface Area Proportions © Central Standard Office of Design



Building & Collective Space Cut/Fill. Program © Central Standard Office of Design



Building Cut/Fill. Shape Shift © Central Standard Office of Design



Building Cut/Fill. Shape Shift © Central Standard Office of Design



Axonometric © Central Standard Office of Design



Axonometric (Detail) © Central Standard Office of Design



Plan © Central Standard Office of Design



Plan (Detail) © Central Standard Office of Design



Elevation © Central Standard Office of Design



Elevation (Detail) © Central Standard Office of Design



Model and boards © David Schalliol


Kelly Bair, Alejandra Edery-Ferre, and Ruta Misiunas.

Chen-Han Tu and Lukasz Wojnicz.


The Central Standard Office of Design philosophy hinges on a belief that the dynamic forces that shape our natural environment are central influences to the design of our built environment. Our work employs physical forces (gravity, weight, temperature, weather patterns) and urban dynamics (crowds, human interaction, context/history) to elicit experiences as strange as they are familiar. Whether this process results in the production of forms and features reminiscent of human or animal bodies (figural objects) or adopt more elusive atmospheric qualities (difficult to define yet utterly visceral in their effects), we strive to design architectural spaces that provoke human interaction and pique the curiosity of the collective mass. Central Standard Office of Design is directed by Kelly Bair.

KTC 234— Knowledge Trade Center


KTC 234— Knowledge Trade Center © David Schalliol


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by JAHN


A Place without Currency, Multinational, Objectless, Systematic, Self-Sufficient, Lightweight, Prefabricated, and Fully Energy Integrated.

The collective space is limitless, inside and outside each of the 10′ x 12′ x 36′ prefab self-sufficient cells. As they interlock, they create a place like no other, in which knowledge is the main form of currency and its exchange the primary function of this community.

Energy, water, and waste technologies are embedded in 50% of the high tech (mother cells) that support the low tech (surrogate cells).

13 layers, 18 cells per layer, form a total of 234 units, that once grouped create a nonhierarchical system of interconnected spaces. As the clusters stack, they generate vertical linkages and new spaces emerge, reinforcing the idea of a community in which the values of real estate assigned to height and orientation are proven obsolete and neutralized by Function.

Knowledge will conquer all frontiers; it is the only form of FREEDOM and true disengagement from a society in which image reigns.

KTC 234 — The Fall of Designed Cities and Rise of Organic Communities.



Axonometric © JAHN



Axonometric (Detail) © JAHN



Floor plans © JAHN



Plan © JAHN



Plan (Detail) © JAHN



Section © JAHN



Section (Detail) © JAHN



Model © JAHN



Model (Detail) © JAHN



Model and boards © David Schalliol



Concept and Development
Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido.

Constructability Concepts WS
Werner Sobek.

Joe Madon and Maria Miller.


JAHN is an international firm that, with over 75 years of experience, has achieved critical recognition and won numerous awards. JAHN’s ability to integrate design creativity and corporate professionalism makes it a leader in Global Design Innovation. Under the current leadership of Helmut Jahn and Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, the firm has grown and evolved steadily from the practice founded in 1937 by Charles Murphy coming from the tradition started with Daniel Burnham. Our work addresses urban responsibility, performance, engineering synthesis, attention to detail and sustainability by design. We strive for the use of innovative technologies to improve human experience and raise ecological awareness.

Re-Imagining Wellness in Humboldt Park


Re-Imagining Wellness in Humboldt Park © David Schalliol


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by JGMA


Our vision re-imagines a unique void within Humboldt Park, in Chicago’s Near Northwest Side. The void, bordered by California Avenue to the east, Augusta Boulevard to the south, and Humboldt Park to the north and west has been in existence dating back to the original plans by William Le Baron Jenney and Jens Jensen. It represents a 24-square-block area, which was curiously never included into the park framework. Today, it reflects the demographics and conditions of the neighborhood overall, which is low-income, minority (primarily Latino), and suffering from economic marginalization.

Our development scenario focuses on Norwegian American Hospital, the anchor within this void for more than 120 years and the design potential of “wellness.” This proposal suggests a new wellness centered strata that inextricably links the Hospital with all facets of daily life within the community. This new strata blurs the former void and creates a continuum with the park, the 24-block area, and the surrounding community.



Urban diagrams © JGMA



Urban diagrams © JGMA



Axonometric © JGMA



Axonometric (Detail) © JGMA



Plan © JGMA



Section © JGMA



Model © David Schalliol



Model and boards © David Schalliol


Juan Gabriel Moreno, Miriam Neet, Dan Spore, Katie LaCourt, and Tad Jameyfield.


JGMA, founded in 2010 and led by Juan Gabriel Moreno, is a progressive architecture and design practice committed to inter-disciplinary collaboration, active community involvement, and the enrichment of peoples’ lives through attentive and dynamic organization of space and materiality. They understand that architecture and design has a unique ability to influence civic life and transform communities. Based in Chicago, they have successfully executed design projects at all scales from small to extra-large in North America, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. Their team represents a diverse collaboration of experienced architectural professionals with a vast portfolio of public and private work in the areas of education, research and technology, hospitality, residential, healthcare, commercial, interiors, urban and master planning, product design, and graphic design. | @JGMA_architects

Chicago Boogie-Woogie


Chicago Boogie-Woogie © David Schalliol


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by Krueck + Sexton Architects


When you own a unit here, you own

       a bed
       a living room
       a dining room
       a kitchen
       a cafe
       a restaurant
       a florist
       a barbershop
       a workshop
       a library.

You own everything.
Even an orchard.



Axonometric © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Axonometric (Detail) © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Plan © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Plan (Detail) © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Sections © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Sections (Detail) © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Rendering © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Rendering © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Rendering © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Model © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Model © Krueck + Sexton Architects



Model and boards © David Schalliol


Krueck + Sexton Architects
Tom Jacobs, Mircea Eni, Sean Myung, Shin Kim, Elias Logan, Don Semple, and Lindsey Telford.


Krueck and Sexton Architects is passionately dedicated to realizing architecture that embraces creativity and innovation. They achieve this through listening, collaboration, and by challenging assumptions. They believe in the power of imagination, the delights of discovery, and the ability of architecture to inspire and improve life. They work in close collaboration with industry-leading engineers and consultants, reinforcing an interdisciplinary and research-based studio culture. They have achieved a consistent design portfolio of the highest quality for over thirty years. The studio is conceived as an open source of creativity and ideas, and is led by principals Ron Krueck, Mark Sexton, and Tom Jacobs, with the vision that architecture is an evolutionary discipline of the arts. | @KrueckandSexton

South Chicago Collaborative


South Chicago Collaborative © Landon Bone Baker Architects


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by Landon Bone Baker Architects


During the height of South Chicago’s population, the US Steel South Works Plant was the primary source of jobs in the area. When the plant shut down in 1992, the population decreased drastically. Job markets today are slowly realizing a maker/seller platform, resulting in a variety of small cottage industries. Workforce development that specifically addresses trade skills that benefit these industries has become an essential amenity that is needed in many neighborhoods.

These smaller industries are selling products that require workspace to translate into objects heir often innovative ideas. As a Response to David Brown’s “collective space” proposal, Landon Bone Baker has developed a neighborhood-specific strategy to activate five adjacent vacant lots with affordable micro-housing units, indoor and outdoor maker spaces, a shared community kitchen, and a market area. Just as the US Steel South Works Plant provided jobs for people who created steel, this conjunction of amenities in South Chicago will house the new generation of makers and creators.



Axonometric © Landon Bone Baker Architects



Axonometric (Detail) © Landon Bone Baker Architects



Plan © Landon Bone Baker Architects



Plan (Detail) © Landon Bone Baker Architects



Sections © Landon Bone Baker Architects



Sections (Detail) © Landon Bone Baker Architects



Model © David Schalliol



Model © Iker Gil



Model and boards © David Schalliol



“Together with Claretian Associates, we asked, ‘What does a community of choice look like?’ and envisioned a place that puts the needs, desires, and strengths of South Chicago, and most importantly, its young people at the center of the equation. Architects can aid in the development of innovative and community-driven solutions if possessed with a real willingness to engage.

While slower and more complicated, a bottom-up approach proves to be most resilient and empowers communities to define the help they need. Chicago’ s policies can support this approach by bringing vision, leadership, and commitment to planning and asking for the neighborhood’s contribution and wisdom.”



Landon Bone Baker Architects
Peter Landon, Jeff Bone, Catherine Baker, Jack Schroeder, Trisha Girdwood, Dominik Soltys, Tyler Brown, Claudia Rodriguez, Terran Wilson, Josh Mings, Hope Dinsmore, Philip Schmidt, Maya Bird-Murphy, Cameron Acheson, Joseph Altshuler, Fariha Wajid, Brenda Gamboa, Michael Wu, Jungsik Kim, and Yona Chung.


Landon Bone Baker Architects (LBBA) is a hands-on, full-service architectural practice. The Chicago-based firm has earned a strong reputation for bringing responsible design to affordable housing and neighborhood planning. Landon Bone Baker Architects is distinguished by a community-based approach, working closely with neighborhood organizations, not-for-profit associations, and developers of affordable housing to create the best possible solutions for residents. Much like our clients and community partners, the firm is mission-driven. We believe that housing plays a critical role in creating comprehensive, sophisticated, and progressive urban development. LBBA strives to provide good design in a respectful way to the many lower and middle income residents and communities in Chicago and the Midwest. | @LBBArchitects

Circle the Wagons: A Community Enclave


Circle the Wagons: A Community Enclave © David Schalliol


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by Margaret McCurry, Tigerman McCurry Architects


Sited on a quarter of a vacant block owned by the City of Chicago and made available for a planned unit development (PUD) is an aesthetically conceived interactive community of affordable housing created from recycled shipping containers. Six 25′ x 125′ city lots were replatted to form a sustainable enclave of diversely configured, artfully colored units with green roofs and solar panels.

The parcel is ringed with thickets of shrubs and small trees, providing nesting sites, shelter, and a food source for wildlife. On the remaining land, a Great Plains ecosystem of native prairie grasses and plants provides habitat for endangered pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. Centered within this Tall Grass Prairie is a communal gathering place with a sand box and a fire pit. Bicycle and recycling containers, a greenhouse, and a half basketball court provide community support facilities.



Axonometric © Margaret McCurry



Axonometric (Detail) © Margaret McCurry



Plan © Margaret McCurry



Plan (Detail) © Margaret McCurry



Section © Margaret McCurry



Section (Detail) © Margaret McCurry



Model © Iker Gil



Model and boards © David Schalliol


Tigerman McCurry Architects
Margaret McCurry assisted by Margaret Sullivan.


Margaret McCurry is a partner of Tigerman McCurry Architects and the recipient of Honor Awards from both the AIA National and Chicago Chapters as well as Interior Design Awards from IIDA and ASID. Her projects have been published widely in architectural and interior magazines and exhibited at museums and galleries in the US and abroad. She has lectured at design conferences, schools of architecture and taught design studios. The author of two monographs, Margaret McCurry: Constructing Twenty-Five Short Stories (The Monacelli Press, 2000) and Distillations: The Architecture of Margaret McCurry (ORO Editions, 2011), McCurry is former Chair of the National AIA Committee on Design and has been President of the Alumni Council of Harvard’s GSD, Director of the Alumni Association (HAA), and President of the Harvard Club of Chicago. She currently serves on several boards including the Architecture and Design Society and the Textile Department at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Cluster Container Housing for the Disabled


Cluster Container Housing for the Disabled © David Schalliol


Building upon the urban exploration of vacancy proposed in The Available City project by David Brown, nine Chicago-based teams present their own responses to the issue at stake. Employing drawings and models, each project investigates the architectural possibilities of vacancy, with a specific focus on the role of collective spaces and the relationships they can foster. Diverse in their location, scale, program, and aesthetic sensibility, these projects ultimately demonstrate that we can leverage vacancy to generate new architectural scenarios that have the potential to address current social and economic issues.


Project by Stanley Tigerman, Tigerman McCurry Architects


On scattered sites throughout Chicago, made available by the city for social activism, are a series of 480 sq. ft. affordable dwelling units composed of three 8′ x 20′ European Pallet shipping containers fabricated in Hamburg, Germany.

Erected on permeable pavers with green roofs and solar panels, each sustainable sky-lit unit is organized in a “U”-shaped configuration to support a disabled person living in one wing with a caregiver in the other wing, both bracketing a central core containing the shared bathroom and kitchen.

The negative of the “U”-shaped plan is a sunlit courtyard that becomes a communal zone when a series of “U”s are placed in a pattern. The dwellings are so positioned as to allow for a handicapped parking space for the caregiver of each disabled inhabitant.



Axonometric © Stanley Tigerman



Axonometric (Detail) © Stanley Tigerman



Plan © Stanley Tigerman



Plan (Detail) © Stanley Tigerman



Elevations and Sections © Stanley Tigerman


Elevations and Sections (Detail) © Stanley Tigerman



Model (Detail) © Iker Gil



Model in context © David Schalliol



Model and boards © David Schalliol


Stanley Tigerman assisted by Jessie LaFree (Tigerman McCurry Architects), Eugenia Macchia, and Verónica Pérez.


Stanley Tigerman is a principal in the Chicago architectural and design firm of Tigerman McCurry Architects and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects as well as the Society of Architectural Historians. Of the nearly 500 projects defining his career, 200-plus built works embrace virtually every building type. He has delivered over 1,100 lectures worldwide, he was the resident architect at the American Academy in Rome in 1980, and he was Director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago for eight years. In 1994, in association with Eva Maddox, he co-founded ARCHEWORKS, a socially oriented design laboratory and school, where he remained as Director until 2008 when they were awarded Civic Ventures’ Purpose Prize Fellows.

BOLD Studio Visits and Panel Discussions


Models at John Ronan Architects © Iker Gil


As part of the BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago exhibition, curator Iker Gil organized a series of weekly visits to architecture studios in Chicago. The eleven architecture studios selected ranged from large-scale multidisciplinary studios employing hundreds of people to small-scale architecture studios, all of them discussing some key urban and architectural projects and ideas being explored in their office. These visits were meant to expand the conversation around projects featured in BOLD as well as visit other Chicago-based offices not featured in the exhibition but with other projects in the city. Ultimately, it was an opportunity for architects and the public at large to engage in a direct conversation about forward thinking ideas for our built environment.


October 5, 2015





October 12, 2015
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)





October 19, 2015
Woodhouse Tinucci Architects





October 26, 2015
Ross Barney Architects





November 2, 2015
Studio Gang Architects





November 9, 2015





November 16, 2015





November 23, 2015
Wheeler Kearns Architects





November 30, 2015





December 7, 2015
John Ronan Architects





December 14, 2015
Krueck and Sexton Architects





Besides the studio visits, the Chicago Architecture Biennial organized two public panel discussions with all the participants from BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago. The first panel took place on Tuesday, October 20, and featured the seven projects that comprised the Future Scenarios category. Presenters included David Brown, Design With Company, Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape, PORT Urbanism, SOM and CAMESgibson, UrbanLab, and WEATHERS. The second panel discussion took place on Tuesday, November 24, and featured all the nine responses to David Brown’s The Available City. Presenters included David Brown and the nine participant firms: 3D Design Studio, Ania Jawroska, Central Standard Office of Design, JAHN, JGMA, Krueck + Sexton Architects, Landon Bone Baker Architects, Margaret McCurry, and Stanley Tigerman.





Second City’s Second Coast


Chicago © Iker Gil


Competition organized by Perkins+Will


Every year, the Design Leadership Council (DLC) at Perkins+Will supports a competition eliciting the engagement of its younger professionals within the organization to take part in a design charrette in the hope of generating responses to provocative design challenges.

In 2015, the DLC Design Competition pivoted from being an internal-facing initiative, to becoming a dynamic, public-facing event. Perkins+Will partnered with the exhibition “BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago” so that their emerging designers could share their ideas and work with the public, and start a discussion on why design matters so much to Chicago.

In this edition, the competition, titled “Second City’s Second Coast: An intervention along the Chicago River,” focused on a site comparable in complexity to Millennium Park and much larger in scale. The 200+ acres of land, just south of Chicago’s urban core, is one of the largest remaining areas that is looking for a creative solution to vitalize this otherwise underutilized opportunity. Over the last seventy-five years, this area on the river adjacent to Chicago’s Loop has been slow to develop, remaining for the most part vacant.

With a program to be defined by the participants, each team was tasked to develop a conceptual master plan for the site and develop one component of that plan in more detail. After deliberating in front of a live audience in the Chicago Cultural Center, the jury decided on three winners and three honorable mentions for the 2015 Design Leadership Council competition.


Grant Gibson (CAMESgibson)
Eleanor Esser Gorski (City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development)
Audrey Matlock (Audrey Matlock Architect)
Andrew Metter (Epstein)
Isabel Zempel (Sasaki)


First Place- Grid | River | Landmark
Silas Haslam, Yanwen Xiao
Washington, D.C. Office




The Chicago River is a critical component in identifying the sense of place of the competition site. The river’s path has consistently been modified to accommodate urban development, while the flow direction has been changed to push pollutants to the south. However, we propose to redevelop this area with a long standing goal: purify the Chicago River.

This area will not be further developed without improving the river’s water quality and direct interaction with the water will never become a reality until real, large-scale decontamination efforts are instituted. Using the old river paths as a datum, we developed a wetland and a landmark building as a system to purify the water.


Second Place – South Branch Succession
Chris Loyal, Lauren Fraley
Atlanta Office




Throughout history, the Chicago River has played various roles in the process of urban planning and development: contributing as a life source, a natural highway and in last century as an industrial corridor that linked the city core to the larger regional framework. Like many river-cities today, Chicago is working to establish a balance between economic influence, quality of life, and the historical to present day industrial uses that occur along the river’s edge.

Our project seeks to reconnect a fragmented urban landscape, instill memory in Chicago’s new urban “tell”, and anticipate resiliency in order to set the framework for future succession. Through the interplay between high and low, ascending and descending, different elements of the site and the larger urban context are revealed, providing a unique perspective of the city and site. Exposing the active rail lines below the development allows people to witness industrial forces that have fueled the growth of Chicago, while also activating the site from below. Creating a wetlands park that follows the old path of the river allows the visitor to understand the sheer amount of effort that went into making the city what it is today. A build-up of density and verticality closer to the Central Business District provides amazing views from the north end of the site, allowing one to experience it in one glance from a tower’s-eye level.

These design elements address many aspects of the site’s rich history, and look to the future with proposed parks and buildings. It is the revelation of historical elements and the future activation of a very important site in Chicago that help this project tell the story of succession.


Third Place – Switchrail
Scott Hefner, Ian Zapata, William Sendor
Research Triangle Park and Charlotte Offices




Historically, rail lines have barricaded neighborhoods from one another and prevented access of health services and fresh food. Using existing rail networks as well as new lines, Switchrail provides a framework to reconnect these neighborhoods. In the case study, the site just south of the Loop, an existing rail yard, is repurposed as a massive transformable park in which rail cars outfitted with trees, benches, band shells, restaurants, kayak rentals, all move along the network of rails. This dynamic view of park space brings patrons what they need at any given time – the program of the park will change from day to day and season to season. On the east side of the riverbank, a wetland helps filter water from one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Over this elaborate natural system is a network of new weaving tracks and mixed use development. The tracks connect all of the buildings and act as a dynamic pedestrian interface at the street level. The Switchrail network in Chicago will transform the way the city views unused rail lines: now as an opportunity for a small pocket park or an opportunity to connect neighborhoods.


Honorable Mention – ACCESS CHICAGO: Establishing a New Infrastructure for Public Life
Jon Loewen, Dan McTavish, Martin Lariviere
Toronto Office




Chicago is defined by its vast infrastructures. Sitting at the junction of two great water systems, where the Great Lakes almost touch the Mississippi, the city is a space of connection – seven interstate highways, the world’s busiest airport, and the primary hub for the North American rail system. Chicago has grown and flourished because of these infrastructures.

Within the city, however, the infrastructures of connection become instruments of disruption—scars in the physical and civic tissue of the city, compromising its inhabitants’ ability to access food, learning, employment, health, and engagement. This site is one of those scars: a huge tract of land that is not only inaccessible itself, but which also inhibits access between the places that surround it—the Loop, the lakefront, Chinatown, the University district, and the river.

The proposal aims to increase connectivity and access at the scale of the city through the introduction of three elements; 1) a series of physical bridges and digital infrastructures which knit the site into the fabric of the city, 2) a sequence of urban rooms which juxtapose different programs, space types, intensities and durations, and 3) new social condensers which catalyze development and social action.


Honorable Mention – River Colonies
Gustavo Mendoza, Gia Zapattini
Miami Office




River Colonies are terraforming communities made of pods that are dispersed in the river to seek blighted industrial zones along the river’s edge. They will attach themselves to an area and begin the clean-up process to reactivate the river into pedestrian and commercial zones. The transformation starts from within the river then moves out along the rivers banks creating a soft zone for habitat. Once the transformation is complete, the neighboring urban zones can plug into the River Colony.

The pods are self-organizing autonomous mobile parts that react to their physical environments. They are composed of a series of typologies, which link together to create a community cluster. These community clusters can then link to other clusters creating a larger network of infrastructure needed to respond to its location.

The existing rail yard on the West end of the site will be adapted into a solar farm. A canopy of photovoltaics will placed along the train tracks covering the field of rails and rail cars. To the East, the undeveloped 64 acre site will be programed with geothermal wells, maintaining the site as a large urban park. The captured energy from both the solar rail yard and geothermal park with processed in the former coal power station. The energy will then be distributed to the colonies along the river banks.

We believe the subtle transformation of sites along the river can connect to create the ultimate river walk and new urban experience in Chicago.


Honorable Mention – Values-Engineered Landscape
Martin Chow
Toronto Office




Formal mega projects have become too risky an undertaking in American culture. Great plans have collected dust for decades, while the form of the city continues to take its shape as an aggregation of piecemeal additions from diverse and competing interests. The result merely reflect notions of best practices that could be quantified and formalized into building bylaws, but not necessarily reflecting the values of the community. The notion of aesthetics, at once powerful yet intangible, is harder to justify controlling in a free market, as it is seen as rather arbitrary to developers, especially at a scale beyond their immediate project. Recognizing that larger economic and political forces are beyond the influence of architecture and local planning, and re-evaluating what rational community values can translate to incentives within a planning policy, this proposal explores how the profit motive driving individual private sector land development can contribute to single iconic vision on an urban scale.


All 64 proposals can be viewed at



Perkins+Will is an interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm established in 1935 and founded on the belief that design has the power to transform lives and enhance communities. The firm’s 1,900 professionals are thought leaders developing 21st century solutions to inspire the creation of spaces in which clients and their communities work, heal, live, and learn. Social responsibility is a fundamental aspect of Perkins+Will’s culture and every year the company donates 1% of its design services to pro bono initiatives. In 2015, Fast Company ranked Perkins+Will among “The World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Architecture.” | @perkinswill

At the Biennial—BOLD and the Chicago Room


Late Entry to the Chicago Public Library Competition project by Design With Company © David Schalliol


Afterword by Geoff Goldberg


Last fall, Chicago hosted the United States’ first Architecture Biennial, a new event on the world’s architectural circuit. With 100 exhibitions on display, the city’s Cultural Center was effectively repurposed, as this large and imposing classical structure became home to a catalog of architectural ideas for three months. Among these exhibitions was a grouping on the first floor, a show called BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago. Showcasing work by Chicago architects, this was a Chicago Room placed within the Biennial. It was curated by Iker Gil of MAS Studio and editor of this publication.

If the Biennial intended to provide a general perspective on The State of the Art of Architecture, a title borrowed from a 1977 conference of the same name, this “Chicago Room” was alternatively positioned and highly intentional. On display were eighteen proposals, each endeavoring to establish an agenda for some aspect of change. Half were challenged with a specific urban problem; the remainder offered large-scale ideas about the state of architecture proper.

Much of the room was dedicated to a particular issue, captured in The Available City, a long-term study by David Brown to regenerate vacant lots throughout Chicago. Nine architects put forward their ideas on what could be done, documented with highly detailed small models, each displayed on a pedestal. Most promoted viability by using realism as their claim to legitimacy, with their dollhouse-like models complete with miniaturized detail (Landon Bone Baker Architects, Stanley Tigerman, Margaret McCurry, and Krueck + Sexton Architects),with a few (such as JGMA) pursuing bigness instead. Despite all this energy on display, none seemed to rise above their colleagues. It was as if the proposed answers cancelled each other out — the result was a flattening of the argument, not the hoped-for reinforcement. If one were to have chosen among them, it was the spirit of JAHN’s abstracted megacity—a vintage utopia—that caught the eye and ineffably raised aspirations.

Remaining was the larger question: What would be best for all these empty sites? A collage drawing by David Brown compiled all the answers, and while well-intended as a summary document, it had the unfortunate consequence of suggesting anything proposed would do. With little here to raise the call for implementation, perhaps fewer more pointed ideas would have been more successful.

Of interest was the event itself, with name architects working on the same problem as the lesser-known. All are due thanks for their willingness to engage. Their proposals were accompanied by David Schalliol’s thoughtful images on vacancy, poignant and well crafted, but sadly here they served as background material to the other presentations.

Elsewhere in the room were larger, more ambitious proposals. Upon entry, the first seen was Logistical Ecologies (Hinterlands with a film by MODUS Collective), a broad-thinking argument for repositioning development in a combinatory way, using land use, intermodal logistics, and a regional agenda to craft a script for the next 100 years. It came loaded with more hyperprecision than elasticity, suggesting specifics rather than the trend-thinking more appropriate for a future so far off.

Michael Pecirno’s abstract readings of Chicago used representation to study underlying traces in urban development. This was an interesting perspective, but one also in need of additional development to become convincing—with its reliance on observation, its agenda was yet to be defined. In both of these, “big scale” was considered as “bold.”

Filter Island by UrbanLab (Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen) operated between bigness and a disciplinary rethink. Their usually well-considered ideas on urban ecology were difficult to access here, with rather substantial barriers in the coloration and imagery of the presentation.

Late Entry to the Chicago Public Library Competition by Design with Company (Stewart Hicks and Allison Newmeyer) compiled an assemblage of fragments and buildings to create a whole, in the service of memory. Message and image were in balance and mutually supportive in this work, aiming to recover the city by combining history and imagination. The idea of “architecture-as-sign” (also referred to as postmodernism) has precedent in Chicago — such as the 1980 revisitation of the 1922 Chicago Tribune Tower competition. Here recovered was the 1987 Chicago Public Library project, amid other urban objects resized and reused. Although the ontological problem (what is the role of memory?) remained unanswered, this reshuffling of the “known into new” offered a fresh perspective on what is and is not around us.

The Big Shift (by PORT Urbanism) was a strong presentation for restructuring downtown Chicago’s lakefront. It engaged the historic Chicago marriage between “where’s mine?” and building, with its scheming to provide new swathes of developable land in the central business district. It was also the most dangerous proposal in the entire show, exciting and doable but oddly lacking a design agenda. If one were to reduce it to basics, architecture here was proposed as a means to expedite development. While such flirtation with commerce is attractive in the abstract, if embraced, sadly such a proposal could, and likely would, be implemented without any design intention. Might one ask what happened to architecture?

Hoping to encourage longer-term dialogue, Gil approached Chicago’s larger architectural firms with the idea of collaborating with new and younger voices. Chicago heavyweights Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) were willing and worked with CAMESgibson (Grant Gibson) on an open-frame tower. The proposal, called The High Life, was one that accepted “plug ins,” a riff on the modular concepts of the 1960s. Detailed in high resolution in model (by SOM, with their effort led by Brian Lee) and in drawings by Gibson, its level of resolution was very high. SOM examined the system’s capability to accept variation while Gibson probed the narrative of alternate lifestyles. These became two realities, staring at each other across a divide, and made for one of the highlights of the Biennial. Here could be found our two Chicagos: one of production, the other of impact. The difference between these two specificities could be probed further and even serve as themes for an entire show.

Original planning for the Biennial proposed Gallery 37, across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center, as a space for showing local answers — part of an ambitious plan to “spread” the Biennial beyond the limits of one building. With this basis for Chicago representation in the Biennial, Gil (in concert with Sarah Herda) initially conceived a large range of work, starting from the regional and spiraling inwards to local and more specific solutions. As things developed, this separate venue was wisely jettisoned and all the work was placed together in the Cultural Center, scaled down but otherwise unaltered. Such scope might have worked if writ large; but as presented in the Chicago Room, the variation and changes in scale were too great. Was the idea to put forth an agenda, or was this to serve as a collection of individual thoughts? While energetic, more cohesion would have served the audience better. Nevertheless, the room was well organized, and getting all this work on display was no small feat, especially in the complexity of this first Biennial.

Underlying this exhibition about Chicago and the region was a counterpoint discussion, one comparing BOLD to exhibitors elsewhere in the building. In short, the main show in the Chicago Cultural Center featured exhibitors individually, while those in the Chicago Room remained a subset of a different approach. Discussion between these two propositions would have been welcome.

How did other Chicago-based architects elsewhere in the Biennial fare? Thomas Kelley, John Ronan, and Jeanne Gang each had large presentations with varying levels of success. Kelley’s super-graphics on the windows of the Chicago Cultural Center were a popular favorite, recasting this classic building with a contemporary commentary on the city. Ronan’s exterior “armature-of-bushes” outside the building reminded one of Herzog and de Meuron’s Dominus Winery. But rather than using their rocks, Ronan’s leaves suffered as the seasons changed — although, perhaps that was the point. Studio Gang’s proposal for engaging police stations was a normative urban design project, popular with some locals. Yet in this context, why did one of Chicago’s leading voices back away from architecture? Its placement at the beginning of the show suggests the curators were worried about where to situate the Mayor’s favorite architect.

The Chicago Room was clear of such political matters. Although integral to almost all the presentations, the politics in BOLD was never a subject taken on directly. One could imagine an alternate posture, not to emphasize local politics, but rather to use locality to spur further thinking. For example, what of Chicago architects working on issues across the field, and not necessarily being limited to Chicago? Or perhaps architects from elsewhere could look at “Chicago-type” problems, with a methodology informed by Chicago’s history to see what new ideas they bring in their responses.

Curators historically serve a function, which could be described as “Go forth, find good things, and show us.” This remains a time-honored role and one appreciates the “shoe leather” expended by Gil, Herda, and Grima, the latter two globe-trotting to find work they thought interesting. “Uncovering the unknown” remains a time-tested model for transferring knowledge, and was adopted here without discussion or definition. Yet today, the presence, nay, the celebration of curation (as opposed to the work itself) has become a phenomenon of the mega-show today, slipping in through a side door with the curator now serving as today’s taste-maker. There are however other ways to approach the problem of curation, as was evidenced in Fujimoto’s assembly of small “architectural object-ideas.” Here curation was part of the problem, used to reinforce an architectural proposition. This was a proposal that established intense relationships between small, innocuous objects with reference to larger architectural ideas. Collection was successfully used to provide credibility. It’s an approach one might consider at the larger scale as well.

BOLD went in a different direction entirely, providing specific answers. It fit a particular brand of Chicago’s history, one where concepts are easily legible and accessible. For this Architecture Biennial to continue to operate on the world stage, it will need greater definition of its intention. Proposals made large and more real are not a substitute, as high-resolution answers are only successful when responding to proper questions. BOLD offered one approach, the rest of the Biennial another—the two together bracketing the fact that future success of the Biennial will require greater awareness of what is being addressed and why.


Geoff Goldberg has practiced architecture and urban design in Chicago for the past twenty-five years. His research and practice operate in a particular way, with the advantage of long and in-depth exposure to a broad range of architectural issues. At the large scale, he is interested in integration across disciplines in the design of complex infrastructures and in finding opportunities in overlays otherwise overlooked. At a more intimate scale, Goldberg’s architectural work engages formal considerations with a contemporary notion of craftsmanship.

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