The Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago announced the winners of its “Active Union Station” competition, which is meant to enliven the railroad hub’s underused public spaces. Although it’s the nation’s third busiest train station and gets more daily traffic than Midway Airport, Chicago’s Union Station remains basically a waypoint on a longer trip.
Two winners and a runner-up hope to change that. “Blah Blah Blob!” will take over the Plaza of Fifth Third Center, and “trainYARD” will sprout in the Great Hall. “I Searched High and Low for You” is the runner-up.
The visual inspiration for Latent Design & Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative’s “Blah Blah Blob!” is, in part, the rip-stop nylon canvas elementary school teachers used to inflate around giddy students during recess. “Remember how much fun this was?” asks the entry’s visual plan. “Yeah, you do.” Astroturf completes the experience inside the brightly colored blob, which will move around the plaza throughout the exhibit’s duration.
“trainYARD” brings the park lawn indoors, “putting it right in the middle of their daily routine.” The design by SPACETIME includes recycled-grass areas for tetherball, croquet and bocce, as well as picnic tables and lawn chairs.
Runner-up “I Searched High and Low for You,” by Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, envisions a slew of red hammocks along Union Station’s Canal Street arcade, slung over a row of what appear to be floating orbs high overhead. Their appearance would be striking, acting as a “beacon for the city,” and a gallery of hammocks — not to mention their almost sculptural accent to the arcade’s parade of columns — would bring some activity to a lonely corridor.
The winners will receive $5,000 to implement their ideas between Aug. 24 and Sept. 2. Fifth Third Bank sponsored the competition, which served as the Metropolitan Planning Council’s fifth annual Placemaking Contest.