Off-Grid Scenarios: Solutions for the Endless City


Project by Ryan Johnson and Darya Minosyants


Chicago is about to gain a new addition to its skyline and its endless grid. Except this time it is different: no one can find it; it seems to be invisible amongst a crowded downtown. Slowly, an inversion occurs, skylines no longer tower to the clouds, but instead extend an astonishing 1,200 feet below the surface of the earth. Alleys turn to bridges, garages to entries and what we used to know as ground turns to rooftop. The invisible off-grid moments now have a new monumental importance and have surpassed any limits of the traditional urban planning. This is not practical research on the city; rather, it is a project preoccupied with the notion of possible realities, which intends to use these scenarios as a theoretical construct from which to build new worlds and hypothetical landscapes. The intention is to use ‘what if’ scenarios as an elaborate interpretation of what the city could become, an alternate universe based on familiar but re-envisioned narratives and possibilities.


PHOTOSHOP: A collection of Chicago’s grid irregularities, applied as Photoshop commands throughout the uniform urban canvas.


Pattern Wrap and Mask Typical.


Sponge Free-Float and ZigZag End.


Pattern Stylize/Distort and Mask Sprawl.


Mask Mini and ZigZag Compromise.


A CITY OF EXCEPTIONS: An abstracted diagram of a gridded city, such as Chicago, where exceptions become the leading characteristic of that city.


FIGURE-GROUND: Off-grid commonly perceived as an exception within the city starts to overtake the city and makes grid the one exception.


PLOT: Chicago’s endless orthogonal grid gets penetrated by spontaneous interruptions, such as diagonals.



INVERTED MONUMENTS: the invisible off-grid moments are about to be emphasized and monumentalized; not upright monuments but inverted ones.


OFF-GRID ISLANDS: for all practical purposes these inverted monuments remain invisible to the city grid, but at the same time the grid cannot exist without them.


2,090 Sq. Ft.


DUALITY: Invisible on the surface, beyond the surface they become a new type of urban monumentality.


10,395 Sq. Ft.


FLIP/INVERT. These operational techniques use the surrounding gridded context in a new experimental way: built matter becomes the void in itself.



TOPOGRAPHY: New typologies emerge, not from the ground but into the ground; the city “zero” plane becomes shifted and redefined.


LABORATORY: The city is changed forever; normal functions and daily operations became replaced by daily “what-if” experiments. The city becomes a laboratory.

Tags: , , , , ,