Urban Matrix


Urban Matrix, 1967 © Stanley Tigerman


Project by Stanley Tigerman


Urban ills are many and varied, this obvious to anyone who has ever entered a metropolitan area. For the urban environment to become meaningful tomorrow, we must solve these problems today. At the present, there are two approaches to satisfy the problems of the urban environment. The first is the “new town.” Build a city in and of itself—start from scratch. In many ways this could be considered an artificial solution, for it turns its back on the problems of existing cities. It is also artificial in that the site selection is a-priori; it is not generated out of natural demands. The second approach is renewal and rehabilitation of existing cities—HUD’s Demonstration Cities. While it is a more realistic approach, it is still shackled by existing zoning and transportation systems. The concept is valid now, but is neglecting problems that will affect us in tomorrow’s urban environment. URBAN MATRIX is a possible third approach. We link to, extend from, and expand upon the existing.

It is the intention of this project to illustrate a possible method by which man can expand center city. Research shows that a common denominator for the origin of most cities is proximity to water transportation. The water, which was once a city’s lifeline, has now become an edge—a boundary. The city can grow only on three sides. We had expanded center city vertically but find it rapidly reaches a saturation point. We have expanded peripherally until it can no longer be considered center anything, let alone center city. We have tried reclaiming land by means of earth-fill, but in doing this we destroy the social-economic prestige that is inherent in the edge. What, then, is an answer? How can center city expand both significantly and efficiently?

We feel a valid approach is to build in the water, but at an incremented distance from the shore. After reaching this decision, we established mandatory goals that the project had to meet in order to become a valid environment. First, each unit must have direct access to light and air. Secondly, it must be dense and establish a high ratio of open recreational space to enclosed floor area. Thirdly, it must develop an enclosed space that would satisfy human needs; a space that would be more than just a human filing cabinet.

The segmented tetrahedral form satisfies the light, air requirements; each face receives direct sunlight during the day. This phenomenon has far reaching connotations.

Within the urban environment there has, and perhaps always will be, a range of neighborhood desirability—the right and wrong side of the tracks. At the present, the parameter or range of values is quite great. All cities seem to have their own version of Harlem – Madison Ave. Theoretically, if we could more closely equate the desirability of real estate, we would eliminate some of the social unrest. If all neighborhoods possessed a diverse range of people differentiated by age, income, race, family size, etc., but all bonded together by some basic collective interest, we would have a unique neighborhood. Possibly this would eliminate financial and racial prejudice. Collectively, man will always have condescending attitudes, but within this diverse commune social structure it would be mutual.

The basic concept is to achieve a flexible, but dense, extension of the existing urban environment. The essence of a large metropolitan area is enclosure and transportation of man and goods. It is environment plus movement.

The structure for URBAN MATRIX is eighteen-foot octagonal aluminum trusses. The core of the truss is for all utilities. Man and goods are transported in capsules, which ride in any one of eight compartments in the truss. The movement of any given capsule is individually controlled by a master computer. The capsule programmed for a specific destination will take the most efficient route as dictated by movement of all other capsules in the system.





Urban Matrix, 1967 © Stanley Tigerman


URBAN MATRIX is composed of 163 tetrahedral elements. The functional zoning within the structure is most flexible. Any given tetrahedron could be a total community—that is, it would have residential, commercial, communal, and recreational functions, or if circumstances dictated, the entire tetrahedra could be designated one specific function. Just as neighborhoods vary in size, so it, too, is possible to have “neighborhoods” within URBAN MATRIX VARY IN SIZE. Adjacent tetrahedra could comprise a neighborhood of specific flavor. It is our belief that if center city was expanded in the form of URBAN MATRIX most of the floor area would be allocated to communal and commercial space. Communal space would include governmental, judicial, retail trade, etc., and any other functions in which people gather together in large numbers. Commercial functions would be a flexible office area or space now considered semi-public. We feel that thirty-three tetrahedra, or approximately twenty percent of the total, could be designated for residential use. Within these tetrahedra, 689,000 square feet of residential area is distributed over twenty-four floors; each floor having a height of nine feet. Duplex apartments are distributed linearly along the external faces. The internal area is allotted to convenience shopping; in effect, the net residential area is approximately 460,000 square feet. This will yield about five hundred apartments per tetrahedra.

The remaining floors in the residential tetrahedra serve communal, commercial, and mechanical functions. The uppermost four floors, designated for commercial functions, have a total gross of 450,000 square feet, and a floor height of eighteen feet. The next six floors, designated as commercial, have a total gross of 511,200 square feet, and a floor height of thirteen feet, six inches. The residential function falls directly below the commercial and covers twenty-four floors. The lowest eight floors are designated for computer controlled mechanical and electrical systems; gross area is 15,000 square feet.

The functional use of the remaining one hundred and thirty tetrahedra is divided between communal and commercial. The necessary mechanical support functions are again designated to the lowest eight floors and occupy 15,000 square feet in each tetrahedra. 698,000 square feet gross of communal space is distributed over the uppermost eight floors; floor-to-floor height is eighteen feet. 503,000 square feet gross of commercial function is distributed over the next eighteen floors; floor height is thirteen feet, six inches.

Floor areas for URBAN MATRIX according to function are:

Residential 22,737,000 square feet
Commercial 82,259,600 square feet
Communal 105,668,000 square feet





Urban Matrix, 1967 © Stanley Tigerman


Open area is provided by the buoyant sub-structure. The square pontoons of six-hundred, twelve-hundred and eighteen-hundred feet per side yield a total recreational open space area of 18,140,000 square feet or four hundred and fifteen acres. The sub-structure pontoons provide not only open space but also 88,2-0,000 gross square feet of floor area for light industrial usage. The buoyant sub-structure units are anchored to the water bottom by high-strength aluminum cable. For purposes of stability, a constant positive buoyancy is maintained through a wench mechanism in the sub-structure. This device will compensate for any rise or fall of water height. The concept of a buoyant sub-structure necessitates lightweight, high-strength, durable materials used to maximum efficiency—aluminum. Of necessity, new high-strength extruded shapes will have to be developed, but it is possible to employ many standard products.

Anodized ribbed siding, in its many varieties, is employed for lightweight, easily maintained partitions. Extruded aluminum boxes are used to form internal trusses. Aluminum pan roof deck is used in the floor system. Drop ceiling is an aluminum, linear, acoustical system with corrugated and “V” crimp panels.

The above are just a few examples of ways in which aluminum was used to satisfy a critical weight-strength problem of URBAN MATRIX.

URBAN MATRIX, we feel, can be seen as a total environment. It is more than a human filing cabinet—it provides basic needs essential to man. Random stairs, penetrating successive floors, plus open balconies will give man an awareness of URBAN MATRIX at all times. We express mixed usage and the recognition of man’s need for diverse environment. We provide open recreational areas, land and water, for ninety percent of the water rights area that we use. It is difficult to find an urban area that satisfies any one, let alone all of these problems.


Related articles

In Support of the Speculative Project: A Chicago Legacy: www.mascontext.com/issues/25-26-legacy-spring-summer-15/filter-island
Filter Island: www.mascontext.com/issues/25-26-legacy-spring-summer-15/filter-island
The Big Shift: www.mascontext.com/issues/25-26-legacy-spring-summer-15/the-big-shift


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.

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