Posts tagged with "Chicago":

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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.

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A newly remodeled 1920s building adds to Chicago’s growing list of boutique tower hotels

Apparently, Chicago has an insatiable hunger for boutique hotels in vintage Chicago skyscrapers. In 2015, the newly renovated downtown Chicago Athletic Association (CAA) became the go-to hang-out for architects during the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Virgin opened anew hotel in the 1928 Old Dearborn Bank Building; Goettsch Partners has completed the LondonHouse Hotel in the 1923 London Guarantee Building; and the 1928 Chicago Motor Club, the 1929 Carbon and Carbide Building, and the Burnham and Root–designed 1895 Reliance building have been converted into a Hampton Inn, a Hard Rock Hotel, and Kimpton Burnham Hotel, respectively. Now, another “new hotel, old building” is opening outside of this downtown cluster, to much fanfare.

The Robey hotel, named after the historic street name of what is today Damen Avenue, is located at the major intersection of Damen Avenue, North Avenue, and Milwaukee Avenue, an area called Six Points in Wicker Park. Located in a 1929 building officially known as the Northwest Tower, and more locally known as the Coyote Building, the 12-story art deco tower is the tallest building by far in the neighborhood. It is a local icon, and for decades it was the center of an annual arts festival called Around the Coyote. In the more recent past, however, the tower has laid largely empty, often on the verge of bankruptcy.

Over the last three years, the Coyote Building has been transformed with major brickwork repair, all new windows, and a flagpole and Robey flag atop the building’s cupola. Chicago-based Antunovich Associates was the architect of record on the project, with design work by Brussels offices Nicolas Schuybroek Architects and Marc Merckx Interiors. The hotel is being managed by the Mexican hoteliers Grupo Habita.

Along with the hotel, the building includes a hostel called the Hollander, three restaurants, two bars, and a small rooftop pool. The hotel itself has 69 rooms, including rooms in the sharp southeast corner with unblocked views of downtown, three miles away. The rooftop Cabana Club bar and restaurant on the roof also offers panoramic views of the city.

When the Northwest Tower was designed by Perkins, Chatten & Hammond in the 1920s, it was one of the first towers outside of Chicago’s downtown. Since then, it has remained one of the tallest to not be in the city’s center or along the lakefront. Though a handful of slightly shorter transit-oriented developments are popping up in the Robey’s vicinity, it is unlikely that it will lose its status as an icon of the near northwest side.

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Michelle and Barack Obama ask for input on Presidential Center

In a video address, former President Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama asked for input on the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center, the Presidential Library to be built on the South Side of Chicago. The directs the public to to give input on what it might want from the new institution. “The center will be based on the south side of Chicago, but it will have a projects all over the city, the country, and the world,” explained the former President. ”More than a library or a museum, it will be a living working center for citizenship. That’s why we want to hear from you. Tell us what you want this project to be. Tell us what’s on your mind.” “Tell us about the young leaders, companies, and organizations that inspire you,” added the former First Lady. “This will be your presidential center as much as it will be ours.” Planned to be built in Jackson Park, on Chicago’s South side, the Obama Presidential Center will be designed by New York-Based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners (TWBTA). No renderings or design details have yet to be released, and the exact location within the park has not been announced. TWBTA was chosen first from 150 firms, then a short list of seven, which included Adjaye Associates, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Snøhetta, SHoP Architects, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and the one local office John Ronan Architects.
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The Line opens seasonal store in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood

New York–based lifestyle store The Line has opened a seasonal store in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Located in the ground-level retail space of the Lucien Lagrange-designed Waldorf Astoria Chicago, The Line will be open through January 31, 2017. Like its permanent New York and Los Angeles stores, the Chicago iteration presents clothing, design items, and beauty products in a home-like space. As such, clothing is displayed in a bedroom setting, beauty products in a vanity, and general home goods in a living room space. The carefully displayed objects in the store come together as an ideal home. Along with the merchandise, the store also provides complimentary services, including interior design consulting. A series of special events will also be held throughout the holidays.

The Line – Chicago Waldorf Astoria Chicago 11 East Walton Street, Chicago Tel: 917-460-7195 Architect: The Line