Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand for last week's groundbreaking of Chicago’s next new sports and entertainment arena by Pelli Clarke Pelli. The 10,000 seat McCormick Place Event Center will add to the already vast McCormick Place convention facilities as well as be the home court for the DePaul University Blue Demon’s college basketball team. Designed by New Haven–based Pelli Clarke Pelli, the 300,000 square foot arena will be connected to a 51-story, 1,200-room Marriott hotel by Gensler, also currently under construction. Scheduled to open in 2017, before the 2017–18 basketball season, the Event Center will also function as a concert venue and convention space. Filling an entire block, the arena steps back at its corners, providing outdoor gathering space. The building's expansive glass facade is punctuated by intermittent corrugated metal–paneled pavilions enclosing the building's services. Large digital displays weave from interior to exterior, broadcasting the night’s events, and animating the arena facade. The highly transparent entrances are meant to extend the arena’s experience out on to the public plaza and surrounding streets. As a means of connecting the project more directly to the neighborhood, the main event floor as well as concourse will sit at street level. Along with the highly transparent façade, there is a possibility that some of the restaurants and concessions may be accessible from the exterior of the building. A reveal in the seating will also allow for a direct view into the event space and to student seating area from the street. The building's most noticeable design element is its curved membrane roof. The light-weight structure arches over the event floor and seating in an homage to other gathering spaces in Chicago, such as the Auditorium Theater and the Grand Ballroom of Navy Pier. The nature of the roof also allows for large gill-like apertures, which will be lit at night, broadcasting the arena into the city.
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Preservation and new development are often at odds, but sometimes Chicago has its cake and eats it, too. Case-in-point: the Harriet F. Rees House, a landmark on both local and national lists that happens to share an address with an arena and hotel complex planned for the South Loop. The Rees House is currently the only building on the 2100 block of S. Prairie Ave., but on Tuesday it begins its two day journey 600 feet north to 2017 S. Prairie Ave. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier), a semi-public entity that oversees Navy Pier and the McCormick Place Convention Center, sued to gain control of the property earlier this year. Now McPier is paying $6 million to move the remarkably well-preserved 19th century townhouse to make room for a Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed arena for DePaul University that is expected by the end of 2016. They will also pay $1.9 million to acquire the land and $450,000 to compensate Rees house owner Sam Martorina for loss of use of the property during the moving process this summer, reported Crain's Chicago Business. This feat of engineering will clear land in the South Loop for a series of developments including a hotel, office space and an arena that the city has agreed to help finance with public tax benefits—not without controversy—because it is intended to boost economic activity associated with the massive convention center. Construction firm Bulley & Andrews is working with Wolfe House Building & Movers to roll the 762-ton house up the street, employing massive dollies and a steel exoskeleton to stabilize the historic structure during its journey. The wheeled dollies are semi-automated and will begin the move Tuesday morning. The Rees House is expected to arrive in its new location by Wednesday afternoon. A webcam will monitor the move here. Built in 1888, the three-story brick and limestone mansion won recognition from the national register of historic places in 2012. It was built for the widow of real estate pioneer and land surveyor James H. Rees, and remains a well-maintained example of Romanesque Revival architecture. Impressive though the move is, it's not the only time Chicago has heaved hefty buildings instead of opting for demolition. As Josh Mogerman wrote for Chicagoist earlier this year, Chicago's oldest house—the nearby Henry Clarke Mansion—was lifted and relocated twice. Much of Chicago itself was hoisted hydraulically as the booming city overwhelmed its swampy foundations. The Rees House will be registered once again as a national landmark at its new address—assuming it gets there in one piece.
DePaul University lays claim to many superlatives, like Largest Catholic University and other stuff. We have one: The Largest Collegiate Architectural Snoozefest. That is until now. On the heels of the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts, DePaul recently cut the ribbon on its new Theater School, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli. The new building is quite literally—excuse the cliché—a breath of fresh air, clad in materials other than brick veneer. (Photo: Jeff Goldberg / ESTO)
A passerby might mistake the Art Museum at DePaul University as an enduring Lincoln Park fixture, even though the brand new building just opened. Bucking the trend for cutting-edge art museum architecture in favor of a contextual approach was a deliberate decision by the university and its longtime architect, Antunovich Associates. “Given the proximity of the building to the Seminary Townhomes, which are on the National Register, a modern building just wouldn’t have flown with the neighbors,” said Joe Antunovich, the firm’s principal. “Lincoln Park is a very particular community.” Inside, however, the galleries meet all contemporary standards, with 19-foot-high ceilings on the first floor and 17-foot-high ceilings on the second. Thick foundations, highly insulated walls, and triple paned glass keep the noise and vibrations from the adjacent L-tracks at bay. “When you look out the window, it’s like watching a movie with the sound turned off,” Antunovich said.