John Ronan’s largest commission to date is climbing skyward in Chicago’s Loop. What will be the new CNA Center at 151 North Franklin Street is to rise 36 stories with 820,000 square feet of office space. The insurance giant is leaving 333 S. Wabash Avenue, the tower often referred to as “Big Red,” after 44 years. In an unconventional move, developer John Buck Company is building CNA Financial’s new home, and buying its old one. CNA will lease back its current space while waiting for its new building, and John Buck will redevelop it once CNA moves out. “The series of public plaza spaces addressing how the building hits the ground is very much the same,” says Ronan. The glass curtainwall has been simplified, however, with rounded edges reverting to right angles--par for the course when adhering to a strict pro-forma as the market around a project goes up and down. Aesthetically and programmatically little else has changed from conception to fruition—a coup for Ronan and a credit to the developer considering the more than two years it took to score an anchor tenant. Those interconnected plazas, Ronan’s favorite feature, exist to liberate the office worker from a rigid typology. Work can take on a different, more intuitive form in this more casual environment. And column-free corner offices, open floor spans, and 9.5-foot ceilings lend maximum flexibility for build-to-suit. Worker amenities are virtually unchanged and include two restaurants, a professional fitness center, three outdoor terraces, a conference facility, bike parking, and 34 executive parking stalls connected to the neighboring garage. The tower’s materiality is Ronan’s unblemished handiwork, from the elegant basalt-surfaced courtyard nestled into the building and segueing to entryway, the tower’s transparent skin, and screened sky garden that acts as a visor of greenery to onlookers in neighboring towers and at street level. One crucial characteristic that Ronan drove home is how the building’s compositional quality and engagement with the street exceeds the importance of vertical form. “This isn’t the tallest building on the block, so it’s not really about how it presents at the roofline,” he said. https://vimeo.com/118022698 https://vimeo.com/118022698
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Architecture of Independence: African Modernism Graham Foundation Madlener House, 4 West Burton Place, Chicago Through April 9, 2016 Based on a book of the same name, Architecture of Independence: African Modernism explores the boom of modernist buildings in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. With research by architect and writer Manuel Herz and photographs by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster, Architecture of Independence looks at 80 buildings in five countries. From new parliament buildings to schools and central banks, the show presents architecture as a means of declaring and expressing independence after centuries of colonization. Along with local architects and planners, architects from Poland, Yugoslavia, Scandinavia, Israel, and, surprisingly, former colonial powers, transformed urban and government centers across the continent. This exhibition is being shown for the first time in the United States at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts in cooperation with the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Numerous talks and film screenings will accompany the exhibition throughout its run.
As developer and property owner part ways, one of Chicago’s largest planned developments gets put on indefinite hold. The Lakeside development, planned for the former South Works United States Steel mill site in Chicago’s South Shore, was to be a $4 billion, 369-acre mixed-use development. Twelve years in the making, the projects was being developed through a partnership between Chicago-based developer McCaffery Interests and the land’s owner Pittsburgh-based United States Steel. Plans called for upwards of 13,000 residential units, over 17 million square feet of commercial space, 125 acres of public land, and a 1,500-slip marina. Situated in the formerly industrial area along the lake, tens of millions of dollars have already been invested in the project, including rerouting a public road. Though the Illinois Department of Transportation planned to reroute the road before McCaffery first presented the Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) Master plan in 2004, when built, the $64 million improvement anticipated the development. The road includes parallel parking spots surfaced in permeable pavement, high-efficiency LED streetlights, and bike lanes. Both Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were on hand for the much anticipated ribbon cutting for that new road back in 2014. With no development, that road will continue to sit mostly empty. But now with the land's future in limbo, local 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza and McCaffery are hoping entice George Lucas to move the much embattled Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts to the site. Ald. Sadlowski-Garza and McCaffery also had lobbied to have the Obama Presidential Library located on the site. Though the project is stalled for the moment, even if it was to move forward, it would be a long time in the making. According to earlier press releases, the plan called for at least six phases and between 25–45 years to finish.
Designs by Chicago-based Goettsch Partners, along with Hong Kong-based Lead 8, have been chosen for a 2,841,672-square-foot, mixed-use complex in Shanghai. The Financial Street Shanghai Railway Station Mixed-Use Development is spread across two parcels of land just north of the Shanghai Rail Station. The project provides pedestrian routes connecting the project to adjacent sites and public transportation hubs with above and below grade paths and bridges. David Buffonge, cofounder and executive director of Lead 8 explained that “Financial Street Shanghai creates a sustainable urban environment that will concentrate walkable, compact densities around a vibrant mixed-use site near Shanghai Railway Station.” On the eastern parcel of the project, a 161,459-square-foot office building is accompanied by 484,375 square feet of loft apartments, and 161,458 square feet of retail space. The western parcel includes 1,410,072 square feet of office space, another 581,251 square feet of retail,236,806 square feet of loft apartment space, and a 53,819-square-foot cultural center. These programs are spread through five main buildings surrounded by shared public spaces and green retail streets. The office buildings also connect with the outdoors with indoor-outdoor work spaces, specifically tailored to appeal to technology and start-up companies. Both Goettsch and Lead 8 worked on the master plan for the project. Goettsch is leading the design on all the office and residential portions of the western parcel and the exterior design of the eastern parcel, while Lead 8 is handling all of the retail portions. Lead 8 is a young office founded in 2014. Their name, a partial acronym, stands for living environments, architecture and design. With offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, they focus on large-scale, mixed-use, and transit-oriented developments.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed an initiative aimed at driving neighborhood development by leveraging downtown development with Neighborhood Opportunity Bonuses. These bonuses would exchange added square footage for funds that would be invested in business development in struggling neighborhoods. The proposal would reform the current Zoning Bonus Ordinance, which enables additional square footage in downtown development in exchange for public amenities such as public plazas, water features, sidewalk improvements, and affordable housing units. The mayor’s proposal hopes to update the current system by “eliminating outdated bonuses, closing loopholes and establishing a new funding source for economic development projects in underserved neighborhoods.” The mayor’s office claims the updated ordinance could produce tens of millions of dollars over the next several years. Neighborhoods named in the mayor’s announcement as examples that could benefit from the initiative include Greater Englewood, Auburn Gresham, and Garfield Park. Examples given of what the funds could be used for include “reviving a commercial retail corridor or bringing a new grocery store to a food desert.” “The new system would directly extend the benefits of a strong downtown to neighborhoods with unrealized potential,” David L. Reifman, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development said in the initiative's press release. Mayor Emanuel announced the initiative at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA) to an audience of neighborhood advocates, developers, and architects. “One developer’s density bonus will not become another struggling neighborhoods economic opportunity, he said. “The whole goal is not to pit one part of our city against another, but to see those that are seeking density bonuses, and want to build taller, we’ll work with you. But means with that opportunity there are funds we are going to see, so when a neighborhood gets housing, there will be a grocery store. When another developer wants to build a hotel, apartment buildings, or condos, or an office building, that becomes in that neighborhood an opportunity for retail portion that have not seen.” As with how current zoning bonuses function in the city, projects will work through their aldermen and the city council for approval. The funds will be distributed through “an open process for development proposals,” with will work with residents and stakeholders. The allocated money will be outlined, with information of supported projects, in a public report provided annually to the City Council. The proposed initiative will be reviewed for approval by the City Council in the spring.
The saga of the MAD Architects–designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts (LMNA) continues as a federal judge denies the City of Chicago’s motion to allow construction to begin. Judge John W. Darrah has decided to maintain the injunction which is delaying the start of construction of the $400 million museum on Chicago’s lakefront while there is still a case against the project. His decision came a day after city lawyers filed a motion to allow the start of construction and expedite the case brought by Friends of the Parks. Earlier this month Judge Darrah agreed to allow the case to move forward after the city presented a motion to completely dismiss it. This latest decision is being seen as a sign that the case is one step closer to going to trial. The lawyers for the City of Chicago argue that the court’s decision to hear the case “in no way establishes that they are entitled to the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction.” The city also noted in the motion that it believed that the case was not a matter for a federal court to hear in the first place, as it is a city and state-law issue. The City also argues that the preliminary injunction was instituted before the Chicago Park District voted to approve the lease for the land, the Chicago Plan Commission voted to approve the project, and before the City Council approved the amendment to change zoning for the site. Now that the project has been approved by all the necessary city offices, the City wants the injunction lifted, allowing for the project to move forward while the case is settled. The case brought by Friends of the Parks was filed in November 2014. It claims that the negotiations between the Parks District and the Lucas Museum regarding the use of the public land would violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, was ultra vires (beyond their legal power) under Illinois law, and violated the Illinois Public Trust Doctrine. The lakefront has long been the site of discussion and litigation concerning its use and public access. Most notably stated by Daniel Burnham in regards to his 1909 Plan of the City, “First in importance is the shore of Lake Michigan. It should be treated as park space to the greatest possible extent. The lakefront by right belongs to the people… not a foot of its shores should be appropriated to the exclusion of the people.” Also in the City motion was a warning that Chicago was at risk of losing the museum to another city. Similar issues concerning the use of park land were the initial reason for the museum leaving San Francisco for Chicago. The motion points out, “The preliminary injunction thus threatens the very public interest it is bound to protect: the loss of the LMNA would deprive the City of a world-class museum and all the attendant educational, cultural, and economic benefits, as well as depriving the City of a more beneficial use for the museum site than the current asphalt parking lot.” The “current asphalt parking lot” refers to the surface lot used for the Chicago Bears’s Soldier Field football stadium on the site. Judge Darrah stated that he would have a decision regarding lifting the injunction so that construction could start by mid-April. Beijing-based MAD Architects is working with architect of record VOA Studio from Chicago, and Studio Gang Architects and SCAPE/Landscape Architects for the landscape design.
As part of the 22nd annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA), Chicago-based JGMA’s El Centro, along with projects from Chicago-based Landon Bone Baker and Gensler, were awarded Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Excellence in Community Design. Finished in late 2014, El Centro is a 56,000 square foot satellite campus for Northeastern Illinois University, located along I-90/I-94 on the north side of Chicago. JGMA lead Juan Moreno describes the buildings trademark yellow and blue fins as building promotional, psychological, and sustainable. Promotionally, they function as a billboard for the school. Psychologically, they are a point of pride for the student body. And sustainably, they are a one of the buildings sustainability systems as sunshades, along with solar panels and the darkly tinted glass. El Centro was also awarded an AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Honor Award, and the 2015 Chicago Building Congress Award. Juan Moreno’s commitment to the school goes beyond designing their building though. During moving his acceptance speech, Moreno brought the 1500 person crowd to their feet, and many to tears, as he explained his plan for the award money. Addressing Richard Driehaus, “Four years ago I was on this stage for the first time. It was in my firm’s second year of existence, and what you don’t realize Mr. Driehaus is, that in your celebration of architecture, that award money that we received kept our lights on.” Moreno continued, “I’m very much interested in paying it forward. I’d like to announce that the money we receive for this award is going straight to NEIU El Centro to start a scholarship.” Moreno went on to explain the scholarship, which would be in the name of his Colombian immigrant mother, would be used to help minority students, the majority of El Centro’s students, to travel the world. After Moreno left the stage, Richard Driehaus returned to the mic to announce that he would match Moreno’s gift to the school. Landon Bone Baker and Gensler projects were also honored with the 2nd and 3rd place awards. Landon Bone Baker’s South Side Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative was commissioned by Chicago artist and community advocate Theaster Gates. Original a series of separate buildings owned by the Chicago Housing Authority, the donated property now includes market-rate apartments for artist, public housing units, and reduced-rent units for limited income families, and community spaces for dance and music. Gensler’s Town Hall Apartments reuse a former Chicago Police station for affordable senior housing for the LGBT community. The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Excellence in Community Design is one of eight other awards given out at the CNDAs, which is organized by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC ) Chicago. The CNDAs honor architects, developers, neighborhood advocates and business leaders who work to improve the city’s neighborhoods through restate development. Aside from the Driehaus Design award, other awards are given out for community planning, non-profit real estate projects, affordable rental housing preservation, for-profit real estate projects, and community development organizations. Winners in these other categories included the Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, the Oakley Square affordable housing, and the Method Products’ South Side Soapbox. The Method Products’ South Side Soapbox, a LEED Platinum soap factory which, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated in the ceremony’s closing remarks, “ is the first factory to be built on the South Side in 30 years.” The brightly adorned factory derives 50 percent of its energy from solar and wind, and includes the largest rooftop greenhouse in the world. Located near the historic Pullman neighborhood, the project has been touted as a symbol of the rehabilitation of the area, which has been economically depressed since the Pullman Palace Car Company ceased operation in the 1960s.
Building on a long relationship, the 2016 SEED Award for Public Interest Design has been awarded to the arts education nonprofit Marwen’s new renovation and expansion, designed by Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects. Founded in 1987 in a one-room studio, Marwen now serves from 200 to 300 students a year in part thanks to expansions and renovations done over the last 20 years by Wheeler Kearns. The newest of these projects renovated 30,000 square feet, expanding the organization’s space within its current building. New spaces in the building include a main student gallery, an alumni gallery, a library, administrative offices, nine state-of-the-art instructional studios, and a 950-square-foot glass loggia on the north side of the building. The loggia, an element Marwen and Wheeler Kearns have been discussing for since 1999, was finally able to be realized with the purchase of the neighboring parking lot. The space acts as an additional public exhibition and gathering space. Continuing with some of the elements and sensibility of earlier renovations for the organization, Wheeler Kearns worked with existing conditions in the former manufacturing building. Most walls were left as exposed brick and heavy timber douglas fir beams make up the structure and ceiling. The floors were replaced with poured, sound-deadening, tooled concrete. Gallery and studio spaces have limited color pallets to allow for exhibition flexibility, while informal support spaces are set in vibrant colors. The new and improved spaces will be used to expand Marwen’s programs and support its increased focus on college and career counseling for under-served 6–12 grade students from around Chicago. Along with that counseling the organization provides free classes in photography, graphic design, film, animation, textiles, and ceramics. Besides working with Marwen on its former spaces, Wheeler Kearns has also worked on other small cultural institutions in Chicago including the Old Town School of Folk Music and the Beverly Art Center. In a statement Dan Wheeler, founding partner at Wheeler Kearns explained the office's interest in designing for the youth and the arts, “In many minds, the arts are seen as an avocation; for a parent to come into a designed place and see that there are serious teachers and artists working with and instructing the students, and that their child’s work is considered and presented in a professional way, that gives them the confidence that this activity might actually be something to support and sustain their child.”
As part of the ongoing preservation efforts surrounding the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Pullman a print and online book has been released reporting the results of a workshop conducted by AIA Chicago and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) in April 2015. Positioning Pullman gives a history as well as a possible way forward for the once flourishing company neighborhood, which has recently been designated a national monument by President Barack Obama. The Pullman neighborhood, once an independent town, was founded by George Pullman in the 1880s to house the workers and their families, of his luxury sleeping train car company. The town, a socially and technically progressive experiment, was designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman and landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett. The community would become a symbol of the industrial revolution and its efficiencies and advancements, as well as its labor tribulations. Pullman would be the site of multiple national policy changing strikes as well as a center for the unionizing movement of the early 20th Century. With the decline of rail travel the company would fold by the late 1960s, with only the name living on as spin off companies into the 198’s. The town's population and its buildings would quickly decline with the company, but a group of community organizers would save the city from total demolition, eventually leading to its landmark, and now national monument, status. The April ideas workshop, and subsequent publication, was charged with outlined a plan to preserve the historic neighborhood, as well as set out guidelines for improving the entire historic site. The workshop was divided into four teams—Park Experience, Historic Preservation, Access and Connections, and Community Development. The teams, organized by AIA Chicago and the NPCA, included architects, landscape architects, city planners, economist and engineers. Community involvement in the front and back ends of the workshop informed and tested ideas on the very people that would be most affected by the neighborhoods development. That development includes the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and sites, new construction, proposed transportation infrastructure and intensive preservation efforts throughout the area. In the next few years the improvements to accessibility, infrastructure, and public amenities, aim to accommodate an expected 300,000 visitors a year. The workshop and publication were supported by The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, and Alphawood Foundation.
The Barack Obama Foundation has announced the seven offices from which it is requesting proposals for the design of the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. The seven firms include four New York–based offices, one London-based office, one based in Genova, Italy, and one local Chicago office. The offices named are:
- Adjaye Associates of London, headed by David Adjaye
- Diller Scofidio + Renfro
- SHoP Architects
- Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
- Renzo Piano Building Workshop
- John Ronan Architects
Stony Island Arts Bank 6760 South Stony Island Avenue, Chicago Carlos Bunga, Under the Skin, through January 3 Frida Escobedo, Materials Reservoir, through January 3 The Stony Island Arts Bank is a project of Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates’ nonprofit Rebuild Foundation. The foundation converted a vacant former savings bank on the South Side into an archive, exhibition space, and community center to encourage artist-led, community-driven revitalization. Current programming includes works by Barcelona-based multimedia artist Carlos Bunga, and architect Frida Escobedo (Mexico City). For Under the Skin, Bunga uses cardboard and adhesive tape to create a fluid space that responds to the surrounding architecture and comments on the making process. For Materials Reservoir, Escobedo gathered debris from a demolished South Side church to create a reverse Tower of Babel, with walls that can be re-arranged and destroyed. The piece comments on how meaning and materiality can be appropriated and constructed by each participant.
One only had to glance out the window to understand why the 18th floor of Mart Plaza hotel was the perfect venue for the Chicago addition of the Facades+ Conferences. With views of 333 W. Wacker, the Willis Tower, and a handful of new towers under construction, the history of the modern facade was on display. The conversation in the symposium would be equally as rich with local and international speakers. The morning’s keynote address from Chris Wilkinson of London-based WilkinsonEyre, explored the latest in novel skin technologies from the fantastic flowing domes of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay project, to the ship like Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, UK. The diverse range of projects presented by Wilkinson were shown along with insights into the process that lead their award winning solutions. In the case of the Mary Rose Museum, the recovered Mary Rose Ship is at the center of the design literally and ideologically. In particular, special care was taken to provide the precise environmental conditions needed to preserve the 420-year-old vessel. In his afternoon keynote address, Chicago’s John Ronan of John Ronan Architects discussed the political and social impact facades can have on a neighborhood. In the case of two of the public projects presented, brightly colored panel facades at once announce the project as a neighborhood institution, while providing a physical safety barrier in areas of the city where gun violence is too often a part of a high schooler’s life. Using a similar system of metal paneling for decidedly different reasons, Ronan described the iconic nature and tranquil interior provided in his Poetry Foundation building in downtown Chicago. Ronan closed with a detailed look at the high-tech skin of the forthcoming Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Mies van der Rohe–designed Illinois Institute of Technology campus. The project’s inflated ETFE foil cushion skin regulates interior climate by controlling a moveable interior membrane with a variable air pressure system. Other presentations included a discussion between 2015 AIA Chicago Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, architecture critic Lee Bey, and Chicago Public Building Commission Executive Director Felicia Davis, on building in the public realm for the public good. Maged Guirguis of SOM and James Rose of the Institute for Smart Structures presented AMIE, the Additive Manufacturing/Integrated Energy project, a 3D printed house and vehicle pairing reimagining energy use. The day also included presentations from over 20 other experts in facade design, manufacturing, engineering, and the Methods + Materials gallery. Day two of the symposium included workshops and presentations from leaders in the global facade dialog, including representatives from Buro Happold, SOM, and Autodesk. The workshops provided for a hands-on, one-on-one, chance to discuss and explore the latest in facade technologies and design practices. Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos and Eric Owen Moss will give keynote addresses at the next Facades+ event on January 28th–29th in Los Angeles.