Posts tagged with "Chicago":

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Wheeler Kearns wins top Chicago Neighborhood Development Award

The Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago brought together over 1,500 architects, developers, business leaders, neighborhood advocates, and elected officials to present the 23rd Annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA). The awards recognized nine organizations for their work in community development and architectural design. Taking home the night’s top architectural award, the 20th Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, was Wheeler Kearns Architects for the Lakeview Pantry. The Pantry has been a community institution in Lake View, on Chicago’s North Side, for 45 years. Recently outgrowing their rented one-story building, the organization needed to expand. Working with Wheeler Kearns, they acquired and rehabilitated a two-story masonry building just below an L station. The 7,500-square-foot space now holds a community pantry with gathering space on the lower level and administrative office space on the upper level. Second and Third place for the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design went to SOM for Chicago Public Library – Chinatown Branch and to Landon Bone Baker Architects for Terrace 459 at Parkside of Old Town. Postmodernist icon Tom Beeby was also recognized with the Richard M. Daley Friend of the Neighborhoods Award for lifetime achievement. Beeby has chaired the Richard H. Driehaus Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design jury for the last 20 years. “For more than two decades the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design have celebrated Chicago’s neighborhoods while honoring and recognizing the outstanding achievement in neighborhood real estate development, community engagement, neighborhood planning, and building stronger and healthier communities,” said LISC Chicago Executive Director Meghan Harte. “Community development by definition is neither easy or fast, but the people and organizations who do this work in our neighborhoods have succeeded in making progress. It is our neighborhoods that provide the flavors and texture that make Chicago unique. At CNDA, we stop briefly to recognize and celebrate individual achievements and the communities that together we have created by design.” Other Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards given out included: The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Plan Award for the Near North Unity Program for Near North Quality-of-Life and Design Guidelines, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award for the The Breakthrough FamilyPlex, The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award Winner to the Chicago Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation for Renters Organizing Ourselves to Stay, The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award Winner to DL3 Realty for Englewood Square, The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award Winner to the Southwest Organizing Project for Reclaiming Southwest Chicago Campaign, The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Healthy Community Award Winner to Saint Anthony Hospital Mental Health Services.
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Delve into the John Hancock Center's history with this unique, first-person account now on display

Few buildings are more loved in Chicago than the John Hancock Center. The black, monolithic, 100-story tower was designed by Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan for SOM in the late 1960s, and to this day commands a prominent place on Chicago’s skyline. While most of the building is private office space and residences, three of the uppermost floors are dedicated to an observation deck (dubbed 360 Chicago), a restaurant, and a lounge. 360 Chicago sports some of the best views of the city along with historical information, a gift shop, and a “ride” in which guests are tipped over the edge of the building in a glass apparatus to look down over 90 floors, known as the Tilt! In a recent ceremony, a bit of enigmatic ephemera was added to that observation floor that any architectural fan can appreciate. "The Journal of Michigan Pete" is a first person account of the building of the iconic structure written by Evald Peterson, a.k.a. "Michigan Pete," a caisson inspector for the project. The journal, displayed in facsimile and digitally, recounts the technical side of the construction project as well as the more personal view of the rising tower. Along with the journal, Michigan Pete collected construction site photos, postcards, and other building literature from the time, which is all integrated the interactive display on digital tablets. The ceremony to open the new display included short talks by Gerald Peterson, Michigan Pete’s son, and William F. Baker, structural and civil engineering partner at SOM, and Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Gerald Peterson, who also worked under his father as a laborer on the construction of the Hancock, spoke of his father’s pride in having worked on the building. “To the majority of people, Big John is just a big building, but to Michigan Pete it was his little baby. The building intrigued him. At night, when getting home in the evening, he would always write notes of the events of the day, this was the start of the journal,” explained Peterson. Peterson also recounted a story of how his father talked his way through security to ascend the 100 stories on foot once the structure was complete, a story that is included in the journal as well.
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56-story tower coming to Chicago's Michigan Avenue, across from Grant Park

It is rare to be given the chance to build anything along the Michigan Avenue “wall.” The iconic stretch of Chicago’s most famous street looks out to Lake Michigan over Millennium and Grant Parks, and was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002. Yet 2017 will see the start of more than one new tower along the historic one-mile district.

The most recently announced of these new towers has been dubbed Essex on the Park. The name makes reference to the neighboring building, the Essex Inn, which will also be redeveloped in the process of erecting the new tower. The 56-story Essex on the Park is being designed by Chicago-based Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. While the 479-unit tower is distinctly contemporary, it also references its historic context.

Designing along Michigan Avenue involves the careful navigation of a long list of regulations related to height, massing, and position relative to historic district as a whole.

At Essex on the Park, this plays out as a large base that addresses the heights of surrounding buildings. Stretching from lot line to lot line, the base continues the wall of mostly late 19th-century buildings. A large four-story winter garden mediates between the base and the more articulated tower.

Paul Alessandro, a partner at Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, discussed the challenges of building within the strict zoning along Michigan Avenue. “The building is shaped by all of these forces, you can see this in the base. Those parameters give you an outline, which you can design in, something of a Hugh Ferriss envelope. They take a lot of the decisions away from you, which gives you a chance to focus on the specifics and details of the design.”

The neighboring 14-story Essex Inn is one of the most recognizable structures along South Michigan Avenue. It is known, not so much for its architecture, but for an epic sign that adorns its roof. While these types of signs were once common in Chicago, they have been the center of more than one controversy in recent years: once when Motorola removed the large Santa Fe sign from the top of a building just blocks from the Essex, and again when the 20-foot Trump sign was added to the Trump Tower. A new ordinance passed after the Trump sign’s installation now makes it much more difficult to add such signage to new buildings. The Essex sign and the building itself, built in 1961, are now protected. And though the Essex Inn signage will stay, the building will be rebranded as the Hotel Essex once renovations are complete.

The two buildings will connect via a restaurant in the new tower and the lobby of the older building. Construction will begin on the tower later this year, while the renovation of the hotel will begin in 2018. Both will be completed in 2019.

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Studio Gang completes a second public boathouse along the Chicago River

As the first snow of the season fell, a large crowd gathered along a quiet bend in the South Branch of the Chicago River. Jovial groups of teens, community members, and public officials were all there for the opening of the Eleanor Boathouse at Park 571 in the South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport. The boathouse is the second designed by Studio Gang Architects and the final of four boathouses planned for the Chicago River.

The boathouses are part of a much larger movement within the city to connect the public with the underutilized river. Though the river is still heavily polluted—two half-sunken boats can be seen up river from the Eleanor Boathouse—the city is quickly improving its resources along the shore. The boathouses specifically provide space for rowing teams to train, kayaks to be rented, and people to directly access the water.

“The Eleanor Boathouse supports the larger movement of ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the opening. “For too long, Chicago residents were cut off from an asset in our own backyard. So today, we are transforming our rivers from relics of our industrial past to anchors for our neighborhoods’ futures.”

Like Studio Gang’s earlier iteration, the Eleanor Boathouse takes its form from the rhythmic movements of rowers. Divided into two structures, undulating rooflines allow for clerestories, which bring soft light into the project. The lofty interior of the 13,171-square-foot boat storage structure can hold up to 75 boats for use by several rowing teams, clubs, and organizations. The other structure is a 5,832-square-foot field house that contains a multipurpose community room, main office, open seating area, restrooms, and showers, and can accommodate 57 “erg” machines, which simulate rowing movements for training purposes. A dark zinc facade wraps most of the project, while one face of the boat storage building is a custom green gradient window screen.

While Chicago’s winters can be brutal, the boathouse is already under heavy use. Rowing teams train in the river nearly year-round and there is also classroom and activity space for after-school and community programs. “This connects us to the origins of the city. The river is the first reason that the native peoples and eventually Fort Dearborn were settled here,” said Studio Gang’s Managing Principal Mark Schendel at the opening. “And it is that potential to come back to that amazing resource and put citizens back on the water. It is the type of project, as architects, we love to do.”

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Striking laser-cut installation brings the ancient past to the present in Chicago

Architectural designers John Clark and Taylor Holloway are giving Chicago a look into the distant past with an exhibition titled Ancient Age: An Endless Journey in Place. Currently on show at the Logan Square Comfort Station—a small gallery on Chicago’s Northwest Side—the show runs through February 24th. Ancient Ages is part of Comfort Station’s annual "Takeover Exhibition." Conceived as a massive window-box diorama, the exhibition fills the building's Southern windows. The carefully lit scenes represent the end of the last Ice Age—the Pleistocene Era—when the Midwest's last ice sheet was recessing. The installation's aim is to highlight the spatial character of the era, which has shaped the landscape of the Midwest but is scarcely visible in Chicago. A prehistoric scene is superimposed on distant Miesian towers, compressing time and space. Dioramas, meanwhile, are composed of laser-cut imagery, lit to play with light and shadow. Multiple laser-cut layers include plant life and animals including the wooly mammoth and the saber-tooth tiger in what looks like a deep endless forest. Comfort Station is a community-based multidisciplinary art space. It regularly holds art exhibitions, concerts, film, workshops, lectures, and participatory events. The building itself is, as the name would imply, a former comfort station of sorts: a public toilet. John Clark teaches architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the School of the Art Institute Chicago, as well as being a designer at Chicago-based Jordan Mozer and Associates. Taylor Holloway is a project designer at Chicago-based Landon Bone Baker Architects.
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Express rail to Chicago O'Hare airport once again floated by Mayor Emanuel

Speaking to a crowd of union workers last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reiterated his intentions to have a high-speed express rail built between O’Hare International Airport and the city’s downtown. Details, however, remain unclear. It was almost exactly one year ago that Emanuel announced that the city would be spending $2 million to investigate new and existing proposals for the rail, which would carry passengers 17 miles in under 30 minutes. Currently, there already is a train, the CTA’s Blue Line L train, that travels from the airport to Chicago's downtown in about 50 minutes. Critics of the proposed express train argue that the costs of building a new rail system far outweigh the benefits of cutting that trip's time in half. The mayor argued for the need by pointing out the success of express airport rails in other cities, such as London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Toronto. While the latest announcement did not include an idea of the cost, earlier studies into the rail have estimated the price at anywhere between $750 million and $1.5 billion. Those numbers come from a 2006 report commissioned by Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley also made multiple attempts to kick start the express rail project, but with little success. The wide price range for the project is based on the major options for the path of the train. The more affordable option would see the train sharing space with the existing Blue Line, possibly running on an elevated level above the slower local train. The more expensive route would follow an expressway and existing freight rail lines that run west out of the downtown. While that 2006 report estimated passenger tickets at $10, twice the current price to take the Blue Line, many believe tickets would have to be much higher. Similar rails around the world charge anywhere from $30 to $60. This latest mention of the proposed express train came packaged in a speech celebrating the 5th year anniversary of Emanuel’s “Building A New Chicago” initiative to rebuild Chicago’s infrastructure. In those five years, the city has been busy. According to the mayor’s speech, renovations have happened at 40 CTA L stations, 108 miles of protected or widened bike lanes have been added, 1,600 miles of city streets have been repaved, 500 miles of water mains have been replaced, and over 300 neighborhood parks have been renovated. O’Hare itself is also set to receive $3.5 billion in city bonds to build a new runway and make other improvements in the coming years.
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Thousands of city-owned properties available for purchase in Chicago

The City of Chicago owns thousands of vacant lots. In the past few years, the city has searched for novel ways of encouraging development in parts of the city that suffered the most from the 2008 housing crisis. The latest attempt comes in the form of the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA). Currently, the CCLBA has made over 4,000 properties available for eager developers in 22 communities in the Chicago area. The Cook County Land Bank Authority was founded three years ago. The organization works to clear up the red tape involved with buying and developing properties that have back taxes, liens, unpaid city fines, or utility bills. The CCBLA acquired the tax certificates of 7,778 tax-delinquent properties late last year and is now offering 4,437 of them to perspective real estate developers. While the CCBLA does not formerly own the properties, it is facilitating the transfer from the city to private owners. Interested applicants pay a $500 non-refundable deposit towards the property and the CCLBA paces a $1,000 forgivable mortgage on the property. If the purchaser is able to maintain the property according to municipal code, the mortgage will be released. The final cost of the properties will range from $3,000 to $5,000. A similar program, the Large Lots Program, recently closed its application process. That program offered city-owned lots to eligible applicants for $1. The last open application period attracted 2,841 applications. The large lots program requires that the land be used for residential purposes only and be converted into side yards, gardens, or landscaped space. The land must also be held by the owners for at least five years. Applicants to the CCLBA must live in the same ward as the property or provide a letter of support from the local alderman. In the case of suburban properties, if the buyer is not local, they must have the support of the municipality. Properties in the city of Chicago are mostly concentrated on the West and South Side, and have been specifically chosen for their proximity to CTA or Metra train lines, or public parks. Land is available in neighborhoods including Austin, Chatham, Englewood, Garfield Park, Hermosa, and Humboldt Park, to name a few. Suburban properties are available in Bellwood, Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills, Dixmoor, Matteson, Maywood, Melrose Park, Midlothian, Olympia Fields, Posen, Riverdale and South Holland. The CCLBA is also expected to make another few hundred industrial and commercial sites available this spring. A map of the available properties is available here.
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Who Builds Your Architecture? organizes exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago’s latest architecture exhibition examines the world of migrant workers and the global construction industry. Organized by the New York–based group Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?), the eponymous show advocates for fair labor practices throughout the world by uncovering “the often-hidden networks that impact labor and sustainability in building architecture.” The show is divided into two parts: The first outlines the construction process through drawings of a fictional project. The second portion of the show explores the design and construction of facade components from buildings in four cities from around the world. Portions of the research are based on the documentation of construction worker deaths, unsafe job sites, and housing conditions by international human rights organizations. Founded in 2011, WBYA? is made up of academics, architects, curators, students, and writers: Kadambari Baxi, Jordan H. Carver, Laura Diamond Dixit, Tiffany Rattray, Lindsey Wikstrom, and Mabel O. Wilson.

Who Builds Your Architecture? Art Institute of Chicago Gallery 286 111 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago Through June 11, 2017

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Chicago's Willis Tower to get $500 million renovation

Plans have been revealed for a $500 million renovation of Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower. The renovation will be the first since the 108-story tower was completed 43 years ago. Gensler’s Chicago office is leading the design for the project, which is being initiated by Blackstone and Equity Office. The plan for the Willis Tower includes the transformation of approximately 460,000 square feet of the building’s interior and a completely new public experience at its base. New amenities to the tower will include a fitness center, tenant lounges, and private event space. The tower’s observation floor, Skydeck Chicago on the 103rd story, will also be remodeled. The base will include more than 300,000 square feet of new retail, dining, and entertainment spaces, and 30,000-square-foot outdoor deck and garden space. Included in the base's redevelopment is a three-story glass structure atop the building's plinth, as well as a three-story subterranean winter garden. “With this historic investment the Willis Tower will remain a vibrant and modern icon that inspires both young and old for generations to come,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said during the announcement of the renovation. “But more than that—today Blackstone is doubling-down on its confidence in the future we are building in the city of Chicago.” Built in 1973, the Willis Tower was the tallest building in the world for nearly 25 years. It is still the second tallest in the United States, behind New York’s One World Trade Center. To achieve its immense height, architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan envisioned the building as nine square structural tubes. As part of the renovation announcement, Equity Office committed to offering 5,000 Skydeck tickets to Chicago Public School students. Equity Office will also donate $100,000 to Project Pipeline, a program sponsored by the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Minority Architects (I-NOMA). Project Pipeline’s goal is to educate and mentor minority students through the process of becoming licensed architects. The tower was renamed the Willis Tower in 2009. Many Chicagoans still refer to the building by its original name, the Sears Tower.
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Chicago's Regional Housing Initiative is streamlining affordable housing development

Chicago’s Regional Housing Initiative (RHI) is working with housing authorities to distribute affordable housing vouchers throughout the Chicagoland area. The Regional Housing Initiative brings together 10 housing authorities, with administrative bodies including the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), BRicK Partners, and CMAP. Starting in 2002 the initiative was started to optimize the process for developers building affordable housing, and to address the disproportionate distribution of funds throughout the region. Currently, the RHI is seeking developers interested in receiving vouchers to help finance new projects. By pooling a portion of their allotted federal rental assistance vouchers, the participating housing authorities can better support the ever changing needs those in need of affordable housing. Since its founding, the RHI has helped with the development of 500 apartments in 33 developments in 22 different communities. This is achieved by matching up developers with voucher holders, ensuring new developments have tenants. One of the main goals of the RHI is to help direct developers to build in low-poverty, high-opportunity communities, where tenants could conceivably have better access to civic amenities and job opportunities. The rental assistance vouchers are part of the Federal Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. This program distributes vouchers to local public housing agencies. These vouchers are then distributed to families whose income does not exceed 50% of the median income of the area. In Chicago, the vast majority of affordable housing being built is done by private developers as part of mixed-income developments. The Regional Housing Initiative is now actively looking for developers interested in applying for rental assistance vouchers to help finance new projects.
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See what quirky period rooms are hiding in Cards Against Humanity's Chicago office

Chicago-based Cards Against Humanity is not a typical company. And, working with von Weise Associates, the company now has an office space that is anything but typical. For those not familiar, Cards Against Humanity is a party game in which players are forced to match often slightly obscene or risqué cards with other players. Founded by a group of high school friends who still make up most of the company, the simple set of cards became the most popular game on Amazon in 2011, just one year after crowdfunding its startup.

With its success, the original Cards team had big ideas of how not only it could move forward as a company, but also how it could support other young creative people along the way. The first step would be to move out of its small storefront office and into a larger space. Brought in early in the process, von Weise searched for a space with the team, eventually settling on two adjacent buildings just east of the Bucktown neighborhood on the Near North Side of Chicago. Much larger than what would be needed for just the eight employees, the new space is more than just an office.

Closer to a coworking or shared space, Cards Against Humanity lends or donates desks to young people and small business who are working on their own projects. At any given time, it can be filled with over 40 people, sharing ideas and motivating each other. To accommodate the wide range of thought, a diverse set of resources and programs fill the office. In the main work area, a large open bowstring-trussed space, three shipping containers divide the room. Each container offers an escape from the more familiar desk space in the form of a Japanese tearoom, a Moroccan hookah lounge, and private phone booths. “There is a Lego room; they wanted a Lego room,” said principal Chip von Weise. “They also gave us images of Japanese spaces they wanted, and we brought in the idea for the Moroccan room. We had a lot of fun with them.” The rest of the office continues this theme of atypical spaces. A darkroom, a gallery, and studio for recording podcasts can be found. Tying back to the game’s roots in improv comedy, an 80-seat black box theater was also built out. After working with the local alderman, the theater recently received a zoning variance, and can now be opened to the public. Anticipating the long zoning process, the space was originally listed as a “training area” in the initial permit set.

The office does, however, have some more recognizable spaces as well. A kitchen and large dining area were a must, as the office is in an industrial area of the city. A large conference room also plays a key role in the business. Once a month the entire team comes together to write new cards to expand the game around a large table. Locking themselves in the room for a few days, covering the dry-erase walls with writing, they ensure the game stays fresh for its loyal fans.

For a company that has run (anti-)Black Friday promotions—raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity—that have included raising the price of the product, selling boxes of sterilized bull feces, and digging a “Holiday Hole,” a typical office was just not going to cut it. Yet the unorthodox makers of an obscene game are not the only ones to see the value in their new office. AIA Chicago awarded von Weise a 2016 Interior Honor Award for the project. And who doesn’t want a Japanese tearoom to unwind in after an intense brainstorming session?


General Contractor Wigmore Construction 312-544-0742

Structural Engineering Goodfriend Magruder Structure LLC Lighting Design Filament 33

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Sign designating honorary "Trump Plaza" in Chicago removed

This post is part of our years-long running Eavesdrop series (think page 6 for the architectural field). It’s your best source for gossip, insider stories, and more. Have an eavesdrop of your own? Send it to: eavesdrop[at]

It took over a month, but the sign designating the stretch of Wabash Avenue in front of Trump Tower in Chicago as honorary Trump Plaza was removed in mid-December. The City Council had voted unanimously to remove the sign late October after Donald Trump had referred to Chicago as a “war zone” during the third presidential debate. After the election, when the street sign was still there, some feared the city would go back on its plan out of fear of reprisal from the President-elect. For the weeks after the election, the street became the focal point of protests against Trump.