Posts tagged with "Illinois":

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House Housing: An untimely history of architecture and real estate in 23 episodes

After a marathon session of presentations of all architects/artists in the biennial Thursday afternoon was marked by a preview of the complex, yet succinct exhibit House Housing capturing the history of inequality of designed inhabitation. Staged as an open house in one of last remaining buildings of one of the first federally-funded housing complex in Chicago, the exhibition is a walk-through into the part of the future home of the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM). Standing in front of the open house the curators with NPHM directors and residents gave a glimpse of the process that led to this collaboration to the audience in front of the open house. Inside the entrance a dilapidated apartment served as the concrete prop for the exhibit introduced as "An untimely history of architecture and real state in twenty three episodes". Empty, low lit rooms with walls carrying scores of uncannily pealed paint become a home for the installation made of home looking furniture, shelves, desks and platforms. Using multiple mediums and told in 23 episodes throughout the open house, House Housing further uses domestic media such as the phonograph, answering machine, television and iPad to tell the story of inequality of housing that are lived everywhere today. As Martin writes in the pamphlet coming with the exhibit, the domestic media in the installation transforms the crumbling rooms of former apartments into "a whispering, humming history machine." Being inside the open house gives a special sense to the material presented as a culture that is not only economically constrained, but also lived as form of constraint. With this exhibit the NPHM inaugurates its future home and hopes to further initiate debates on economies for housing not shy of ideological investigations of the cause, crisis and removal of modern housing and its replacement with typologies of new urbanism. A couple of visitors could be heard commenting how the spaces of the open house feel like being in a socialist home, a comment not too far off if one unjustly equates poverty with a specific ideology. Ultimately House Housing points to the "art of inequality" carried via the twenty three episodes that are specific, yet global, that its design is still happening as we experience the open house visit. A bleak preview of the future to come that is also uncertain. The exhibition is installed by the Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and assembled by a team of researchers at Columbia University directed by Reinhold Martin and curated together with Jacob Moore and Susanne Schindler. The group's website has more information about this long term project.
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Rapid Response: Jeanne Gang reimagines the police station in Chicago

"We were outraged by what we saw—by the violence in everyday life," said Jeanne Gang when asked about the impetuous behind her firm's project Polis Project, a proposed reinvention of the typical police station on view at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The work, like any number of projects in the exhibition, highlights the what curator Joseph Grima calls “architectural agency,” where firms take on projects not for a client, but out of a sense of urgency to architecturally address important issues. Sparked by incidents of police violence against African Americans across the United States and supported by the May 2015 Obama administration policy brief: the “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” Studio Gang’s research and design proposal flanks the two sides of the Center’s grand stair. One side displays a history of law enforcement architectures—from the neighborhood police box to today’s bunker-like stations—and the other a design proposal for Chicago’s 10th District Station in Lawndale. “We asked ourselves “What is a police station in the 21st Century?”” she noted, pointing out that while past incarnations were community-based as police officers moved out of the neighborhoods where they had a beat, the tensions between locals and officers increased. The architecture of reflected that conflict. “The police station doesn’t carry the same ideas of democracy as a court house,” she noted, but by imbuing these values into the station building, Studio Gang hopes to point a way forward to a new idea of architecture. "Everyone comes though the same front door," Gang said, and explained how the building is more like a community center than a jail. Little things, like free Wi-Fi, and big things, like mental health services, computer labs, park space and retrofitted housing for officers in the neighborhoods, are meant to break down the barriers between the police and residents. Work is already underway. A police-owned parking lot is being transformed into a new park and basketball courts that is meant to be a shared, non-confrontational space in the neighborhood. “This community will have a safe place to play.”
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First Look> Inside the Chicago Architecture Biennial

AN got a firsthand look at some of the projects inside the Chicago Cultural Center, many of which are juxtaposed across media, scale, and intellectual territory. For example, simple wood models from South African studio Noero Architects' 180 Square Meters sat quietly next to a wild set of renderings by François Roche that showed digital narratives of buildings as characters in their surroundings. Nearby, an oddly-detailed full-scale mock-up of a light steel stud-framed room welcomed visitors to go inside. Here are some of our favorites from our first glimpse at the sprawling main exhibition in Chicago: "The End of Sitting" questions why we design so much of our environment for sitting, given recent research showing how unhealthy it is to sit all day. This is the first show by the radical architecture and media collective Environmental Communications. It includes a selection from 200,000 images found in a Venice, California, garage. The Rock Print load-bearing column was built using a robot that placed rocks bound by string into a mold, which was then removed to create this curious structure. Atelier Bow-Wow occupied the courtyard of the Cultural Center, which is an important place, but is often cut-off from the rest of the building. They animated the courtyard by exploring the idea of a prison as a place of potential. Amanda Williams's work on the south side of Chicago includes a set of abandoned houses painted with colors derived from pop culture in the surrounding neighborhoods. It is displayed in a hallway. MOS Architects built a house made of hallways to critique McMansions, which they see as all foyers and hallways. Its disciplinary deadpan was a great juxtaposition next to "Architecture is Everywhere" by Sou Fujimoto Architects, a series of small everyday objects, like staples and binder clips, arranged into architectural models complete with scale figures. Makeshift is an ad-hoc construction that responds to its specific site with an improvised structure for music performance. It is based on the music legacy of Chicago. The Biennial is bustling with people as well, as everyone from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to designers from around the world are in attendance. For ongoing Chicago Biennial coverage, check back with AN over the next few days and weeks.
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Eavesdrop> Rahm Emanuel, Archi-critic

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, Mayor Rahm Emanuel rattled off a few of his favorite buildings in the fair city of Chicago. Rahmbo steered clear of the supertalls—no Sears, Hancock, or Trump—and he’s apparently a thoroughly modern guy, skipping the old Water Tower, the Board of Trade or any classical designs. Nope, it’s Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 333 Wacker Drive, clad in curving, reflective green glass, that leads off his list. He also gave shouts out to Frank Gehry’s fittingly bombastic Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the industrial-turned-condo buildings of Printer’s Row in the South Loop. Makes sense that Mr. Tourism-and-Development would gravitate towards buildings with real estate stories as interesting as their designs. No qualms with his picks, but we’d like to see old, pre-sweater wearing Rahm pen a screed dropping f-bombs on his least favorite buildings. Now that’d be something.
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Architect John Ronan talks opportunities, challenges in dynamic facade design

In recent years, building envelope assemblies have become increasingly sophisticated, separating the skin from its traditional, structural function and thus making way for formal experimentation. But this freedom "presents a bewildering challenge," says John Ronan, founding principal of Chicago-based John Ronan Architects. "What do you do when you can do anything? When the surface of the building asks for no more than a cladding? I think architects are struggling with this question, and that is why one sees so many arbitrary formal tropes in facade design now; anything is possible, but nothing has meaning." Ronan, who also teaches at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) College of Architecture, will share some of his own experience designing dynamic facades during the afternoon keynote address at November's Facades+ Chicago conference. For Ronan, a successful facade design begins with project-specific issues that go beyond environmental performance and client, to include program, identity, social factors, and historical context. As an example, he contrasted his firm's treatment of the Poetry Foundation and Gary Comer Youth Center buildings. "At the Comer center, security and safety were primary issues due to violence in the neighborhood, and that influenced the facade design, while at the Poetry Foundation the issue was more one of public interface and creating a sense of intrigue or mystery, to entice someone to come in and explore," explained Ronan. The IIT Innovation Center presents a third point of reference. "[That facade] is driven by context, that is, the Mies [van der Rohe] campus, but also by technology—the idea that an institute of technology should have something very forward looking and innovative." Regarding the particularities of designing and fabricating facades for his hometown, observed Ronan, "Chicago is still a place where things are made, so we have a deep pool of material and fabrication knowhow to draw upon, and to a certain extent, the world still comes to Chicago for high rise design, a market which is typically on the leading edge of facade technology." On the flip side, architects and builders must contend with the Windy City's alternately hot, wet, and freezing weather. "Sadly, we have to leave buildings out in the rain, and this often dictates which materials and assemblies can and cannot be used Chicago," said Ronan, tongue in cheek. More seriously, he continued, "The development of rain screen facades has been liberating for us here, because it allows us to enclose the building and then come back in the spring to install the facade." Catch up with Ronan and other AEC industry leaders November 5–6 at Facades+ Chicago. Register today or learn more at the Facades+ Chicago website.
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Chris Wilkinson reflects on cutting-edge facade technologies

Ask London-based WilkinsonEyre Director Chris Wilkinson to describe some of the interesting facades he has worked on recently, and you will hear him rattle off a dizzying array of materials, from glass to stone, concrete, brick, and timber. But while his firm's varied portfolio includes the gamut of traditional building materials, his approach to envelope design could hardly be classed as such. Wilkinson, who will deliver the opening keynote at the Facades+ Chicago conference in November, professes a special interest in exterior technologies having to do with reflectivity, shading, ventilation, and responsiveness. With respect to color and reflectivity, Wilkinson prefers to look back—way back—at Westminster Abbey Chapter House, built around 1250 and restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the early 1870s. The Chapter House "is the most magnificent stone and glass facade, full of color and very elegant," said Wilkinson. "That's inspired some colored projects we've done," including the Queen Mary, University of London mathematics building and the University of Exeter Forum. Wilkinson is also eager to talk about the Dyson campus in Malmesbury, UK. "It's a research building in the middle of the country," he explained. "It's a relatively large building, but you can't really judge the size of it because of its reflectivity." On the traditional materials front, Wilkinson is particularly excited about the stone "veil" WilkinsonEyre has developed for the Crown Sydney Hotel in Sydney, Australia. "It's equivalent to what I would call Gothic stone tracery," he said. "We're using modern technology to recreate the sort of effect you got in Gothic times. It's something that they found very interesting in Australia, because they don't have any old buildings there." Wilkinson's apparently never-ending curiosity extends to responsive facades. In addition to his firm's work with dichroic glass, he points to a scheme to construct drum-shaped residential buildings within the 1867 gasholder guide frames at King's Cross. "It's a fairly normal facade system, but with an outer layer of shading shutters that open and close at the touch of your iPhone," explained Wilkinson. "These are circular buildings, so you can imagine the effect will be quite dynamic." As to why the materials and systems he uses changes so much from project to project, Wilkinson is clear that everything originates from the brief and context rather than a preconceived commitment to diversity. "I'm not trying to be different for the sake of being different," he said. "I'm looking for something that's relevant to that particular project." At the same time, he balances pragmatics with an inner drive for innovation. "I and many of my colleagues have an interest in exploring possible new uses of old materials, and in exploring uses of new materials," said Wilkinson. "We like pushing the boundaries, really. And we try not to do anything that's ordinary." Hear more from Wilkinson and other movers and shakers in the world of building envelope design and fabrication at Facades+ Chicago. Visit the conference website for more information or to register.
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Boomtown: Houston poised to overtake Chicago as country's third-largest city by 2025

The Texas metropolis of Houston is famous (or perhaps infamous) for its sprawling footprint. But as recent census numbers affirm, that growth reflects more than just a lack of zoning—within 10 years, more people will live in Houston than Chicago, according to information from health departments in Illinois and Texas. (Read AN's feature examining Houston's first General Plan here.) Long the country's third-largest city, Chicago is projected to have just 2.5 million people by 2025. Houston is expected to surpass that number, possibly growing to 2.7 million residents. A June study by Houston's Rice University found “if both cities maintain their average growth rates of the last four years, Houston would surpass Chicago as the country's third most populous by 2030.” Previous data from the 2000 and 2010 censuses had forecast a similar changing of the guard, noting Chicago had lost 200,000 people in the millennium's first decade, while Houston gained nearly 119,000. But new data publicized by Business Insider suggests the Texas metropolis could overtake the Windy City sooner. Houston leads the nation in job growth, owing largely to its expanding population.
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Notes from the Society for College and University Planning's 2015 Chicago Conference

There’s much to be said about SCUP’s 50th Annual International Conference, held this year at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, in Chicago, Illinois, July 11 – 15. Aside from what one must imagine are the typical characteristics of this globe-trotting annual event—mission-oriented indoctrination, relentless networking against seemingly never-ending waves of competition and sweets, a diverse range of diurnal activities and workshops concerning a stunning miscellany of unpredictable subjects (including drones)—this year’s event presented interesting spins on an emergent, “integrated” planning strategy involving the use of Data in University programming. One of the conferences most interesting topics was the common theme of SIMULATION across the conference, specifically, in the context of using data born from a projected reality or fantasy, which ultimately ends up informing reality to such a magnitude as to change something. This is tied to video games, role-playing and the sensibility of the gamer. In “How to make the Future – With Games,” Jane McGonigal, Game Designer and Future Forecaster, leveled the crowd with an exegesis on the collective intelligence and “collaboration superpowers” of gamers and their seemingly shared, innate ability to, not sit in a dark room for hours ingesting potato chips on a pleather couch peppered by blades of setting sunlight that make it through the blinds but not the headphones (the blinds reference could be 80’s: American Gigolo, Less Than Zero), but “strengthen and transform” Society. McGonigal’s milieu, becoming ours, involves “massively multi-player future forecasting games” that enable us to imagine and plan for “strange and wonderful futures”. She is, according to SCUP’s description of the Plenary Session, today’s “leading speaker on the engagement economy and the application of game-design to the real world.” https://youtu.be/8HjjMv4LvbM McGonigal’s initial visualization and consequent circumlocutory word-play involved the construction of a predictive model in the form of an asteroid threat, which utilized player response to inform a “collective intelligence around real-world pandemic response.” She described her use of social media as a ready-made network to host this particular simulation or game. She defined a geographic region or corridor. Players fantasized about impacts to everything from available medicine to the stock market and their responses were ultimately used to inform responsive, BIG BROTHER agency thinking. McGonigal further described concepts of “Interactive Documentary” and concluded with a very compelling description of “Find the Future: The Game”, a game in which over 500 players explored the New York Public Library’s 70 miles of stacks using laptops and smartphones, following clues that amalgamated in short personal essays inspired by the event which are to be compiled in a volume to be stored within the Library’s collection. “The game is designed to empower young people to find their own futures by bringing them face-to-face with the writings and objects of people who made an extraordinary difference,” said McGonigal McGonigal made mention of one other related item of interest relative to reality and gaming, the text Ready Player One, by Ernest Celine. I just read this book, which takes the notion of Simulation to a level that displaces reality while at the same time, supplies the, let’s just say participant, with many forms of currency which have palpability in the real world, be it knowledge, a sense of physical security, or income. Celine constructs a post-apocalyptic world in typical sci-fi fashion. He integrates '80s lore (Music, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Video Games, TV, etc.) into the construct. His seamless interweaving of the content informing the game with the game itself and reality is fascinating, and it takes McGonigal's expertise to its logical conclusion: Data generated from Fantasy has value in the real world and has the capacity to inspire change on many levels, even policy. McGonigal’s influence put a strange, intellectual spin on the lens through which Data might be perceived on the level of Programming. It seems that Fantasy has as much to teach us about reality as human tracking. Going back to the idea of a predictive model, devoting more time to fully flushing out worlds that don’t exist, could significantly inform our approach to data-driven design methodologies in a way that is less invasive than human telematics.
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DXU Delivers Luxe Minimalism in Dekton

Sleek black rain screen reflects Porsche Design's understated style.

In the world of high-end retail, first impressions matter. Knowing this, DXU, LLC principal Eric Styer took special care selecting a facade material for the Porsche Design boutique in Oak Brook, Illinois. "We were trying to play off Porsche Design's simplicity and clean lines," said Styer, referring to the clothing and leather goods retailer's minimalist style. "Of course, this location is in a mall, so we had to deal with [their requirements] as well." After first eliminating other options on budgetary, performance, or aesthetic grounds, the architect found himself drawn to Dekton, an ultra-compact surfacing material from Cosentino. Styer's solution, a matte black Dekton rain screen featuring mitered joint detailing and integrated acrylic signage, plays up the material's strengths to embody Porsche Design's understated glamour. "We were looking for materials that would meet Porsche Design's design qualities as well as the mall's," recalled Styer. "They were pushing us to get granite on the exterior. However, that potentially leans in a direction we didn't want to follow." Specifically, Styer worried that the marbling on granite or another natural stone would distract from the overall impression he hoped to convey—of a solid block carved into masses and voids. In search of a similarly durable material, he reached out to Cosentino. The company mentioned Dekton, which was just being introduced to the United States, and suggested that the Porsche Design presented a unique opportunity to explore the material's use in a new application (as a facade). Styer was soon convinced that the material, composed of naturally existing inorganic minerals subjected to a patented high-heat, high-pressure process, would help him realize his technical and aesthetic ambitions.
  • Facade Manufacturer Stone Systems, Cosentino (advisors)
  • Architects DXU, LLC
  • Facade Installer Ryan Construction
  • Location Oak Brook, IL
  • Date of Completion August 2014
  • System Ventilated Dekton rain screen with mitered corners, integrated acrylic signage
  • Products Dekton by Cosentino in Sirius
Styer, who half-jokingly referred to Dekton as "basically surfacing on steroids," selected the material for three principal reasons. The first was its technical compatibility with his design. Dekton is manufactured in 5-foot by 10-foot slabs, thus reducing the occurrence of joints or seams. In addition, it can be miter-cut to mimic the appearance of cut stone. "That went back to the very simplistic, minimalistic impression we were looking for," explained Styer. "For all of our fenestrations in the building we have three-inch returns tucked behind the storefront volumes; that aspect of the material was perfect for Porsche Design." Durability was another important factor in the architect's decision to go with Dekton. The Oak Brook Porsche Design store is located on a high-traffic corner in a popular mall, making it especially vulnerable to wear and tear. Given Chicago's freeze-thaw cycle, Dekton's resistance to thermal shock was also a plus. As well as being technically appropriate and rugged, Dekton appealed to Styer on aesthetic grounds. Elegant but not showy, it captures the Porsche Design brand's emphasis on quality over bling. And though the material was available in only a limited number of colors and finishes at the time (Cosentino's offerings have since expanded to 23 colors), one of those combinations—the matte black Sirius—echoed the interior painting scheme. "In the interior, Porsche Design uses black glass, so if a high gloss black was available, we would have chosen that," said Styer. "But they also use matte black paint, so [Sirius] was perfect for us." The Dekton panels were installed as a ventilated rain screen. "There were some complications, maybe something of a learning curve in the fabrication process," recalled Styer. "A lot of that was due to the newness of the product in the States." None of the components that had been used to install Dekton rain screens in the United Kingdom were yet available on the other side of the pond, he explained, so "the Cosentino team had to jump through some hoops to get them here." The extra effort was worth it, however, as the particularities of the Dekton rain screen helped mitigate the difficulty of dealing with a preexisting structural rhythm. "For it being a pretty hard material, it was flexible in terms of some of the parameters we were looking for," said Styer. "There were piers we couldn't change, and a parapet element we had to tuck back into. To us, it seemed like a magic material." Styer is understandably pleased with where his hunt for an appropriate facade material led him—so much so that he looks forward to further experiments with Dekton. He mentioned in particular the capacity for bookmatching, and imagines a facade distinguished by a mirrored pattern. "It seems like you'd have more of an opportunity to do that with Dekton than with traditional stone," mused Styer. "It's a new aesthetic area I would like to investigate."
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Here's how students from IIT used cutting edge technology to craft a rippling carbon fiber facade

Though only one semester had elapsed since the student-designed and fabricated FIBERwave carbon fiber pavilion went up, by early 2015 IIT professor Alphonso Peluso was hungry for more. For his Digital Fabrication seminar this spring, Peluso upped the architectural ante, asking students to think in terms of a facade panel system rather than a freestanding structure. "It seemed like if we wanted to be taken seriously, we'd have to [focus on] a real-world application," he explained. With support from a number of outside experts, Peluso and his students designed and built a full-scale panel segment in a single semester. Beyond demonstrating the capacity of carbon fiber to function as a building skin, CARBONskin evidences the synergetic power of curiosity backed by experience. "The big story" behind CARBONskin, said Peluso, is the network of designers and fabricators he has become a part of since FIBERwave. Thanks to interest generated by the pavilion, several sponsors have donated materials. "Now we can keep moving forward," said Peluso. "I wasn't sure, because the crowdfunding thing is too difficult to do over and over." In addition, several leading lights in the field of carbon fiber architecture have offered technical assistance. Kreysler & Associates consulted on both FIBERwave and CARBONskin. And Greg Lynn, whose previous experiments with carbon fiber (including his RV PROTOTYPE House) served as models for CARBONskin, also shared information and advice. Lynn "has been a real inspiration for me and my students," said Peluso. "He's really ahead of the curve." Before tackling the facade panel design, the seminar enrollees—Carlos Davalos, Pablo Ferrer Franco, Jacob Harney, Raleigh Howard, Zhitao Hu, Zachary Jaffe-Notier, Aishwarya Keshav, Bowen Lu, Caio Mendonca Placido, Mina Rezaeian, and Eric Schwartzbach—gained early exposure to carbon fiber in a seasonally appropriate exercise. Knowing that students enjoy fabricating at full scale, and deciding to take advantage of the particularly cold weather, Peluso tasked the students with designing ice structures in the vein of Heinz Isler. "I saw a connection between ice structures and carbon fiber," he recalled. "With carbon fiber, you work with cloth, and use chemicals to make it structural. I thought, 'Why not use water instead, and harden the cloth into ice?'" Because the forms involved hanging cloth over supports, moreover, the students could start working with carbon fiber immediately, building small-scale prototypes of their ice structures without first completing a tutorial in CNC milling or molding techniques. Soon, however, it was time to shift focus to the facade system itself, which would be applied to a disused two-story curtain wall mockup on the IIT campus. Working in groups, the students designed and fabricated scale carbon fiber models of four facade panels. At midterm, they presented their designs to Polynt Composites' Rick Pauer. (Peluso and Pauer first met through the comments section in an AN article on FIBERwave.) Both Pauer's critique and the students' own experience were instrumental in determining a final panel configuration, which the class voted on after a design charrette. "When they make these small-scale models, they start to run into a lot of challenges; they start to understand the capabilities of carbon fiber," explained Peluso. "They use that as a feedback loop, and make adjustments  based on the actual process of working with the material." Featuring a complicated topography of hills and dips punctuated by amorphous PETG windows, the design the students selected was the most complex of the those produced during the charrette. "It was exciting and intimidating at the same time," recalled Peluso. "But that's where the best projects come from, in general—people who are willing to just go for it." Meanwhile, a number of industry sponsors had volunteered to donate materials. But with the semester flying by and none of the promised supplies yet on hand, Peluso made a tough decision: he purchased (at a discount) enough cloth from Soller Composites to build three feet of the 9-foot-11-inch-tall panel at full width. (Peluso and his summer students will use material since delivered by Hexcel and Vectorply to fabricate a full-scale panel.) To work around another challenge—the fact that the molds were too large for the school's vacuum former—Peluso called on Matt Locaciato of Fiberworks. Locaciato showed the class how to use a Duratec primer (donated by Composites One) to prevent the carbon fiber from sticking to the CNC-milled wood molds. "It was our first time using the primer and it worked," said Peluso. "It was one of those magical things." The rest of the fabrication process, which involved curing the carbon fiber with West Systems epoxy resin, releasing it from the mold, CNC-trimming the panel to size, and finishing with several applications of a Duratec top coat, went smoothly. Given the speed with which a single semester passes and the nature of the course—a seminar rather than a studio—the fact that Peluso and his students completed one-third of a full-scale panel before the summer break is itself remarkable. For Peluso, the crowning achievement was the collective pride the project engendered. At the beginning of the term, he said, "I didn't really know what the outcome would be. When you have students in studio, you can count on them for a lot of hours. For an elective, they don't put in that kind of time." But by the time they joined Locaciato in the shop to prime the molds, all of the enrollees were fully committed. "At that point, the students started to become really excited about full-scale fabrication with this exotic material—you started seeing them more," recalled Peluso. "I think that's the coolest thing [about this experience]. The success is that these students came together."
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Navy Pier's new "Wave Wall" by nArchitects lays a modern Spanish Steps at the foot of a Ferris wheel

Navy Pier is three years into a $278 million overhaul, and the new face of Illinois' most visited tourist attraction is beginning to emerge—most recently a grand staircase titled “Wave Wall" washed over the foot of the pier's famous ferris wheel. The peninsular mall and mixed-use amusement park has many major changes still in store, courtesy of a design team led by James Corner Field Operations. But photos available on the website of designers nARCHITECTS reveal a completed portion of the project collectively called “Pierscape” that creates an outdoor amphitheater from a simple stairway. (The full design team includes dozens of consultants.) The form of the new public space, which faces south into Chicago Harbor, resembles a sweeping wave or a wending draft of wind. Treads made of composite materials domesticate the snarling steel risers. Glass beneath the steps allow passersby indoors at the Pier to glimpse activity on the steps outside. From the bottom of the stairs, the project unspools into an audience seating area for public performances, and also frames the historic Navy Pier Ferris wheel—a 196-foot tall wheel will soon replace the current one, itself a stand-in for the 264-foot icon first transported to the spot from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The designers say “Wave Wall” was inspired by the Spanish Steps in Rome.
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This urban intervention in Chicago would let citizens control colorful lights under the "El" with their smartphones

Chicago is best known for Wrigley Field and the Sears Tower (yes, the Sears Tower), but one of its most prominent urban features is the elevated train tracks that form the “Loop,” or the downtown area bound by this snaking steel goliath. However poetic the idea of the “El” might be, it brute steel structure could, like most raised infrastructures, use some improvements. To draw attention to improving the El, the Chicago Loop Alliance has even outlined a plan called Transforming Wabash, which focuses on one heavily trafficked throughway underneath train tracks. The Wabash Lights is a site-specific installation that would convert a stretch of the tracks into a programmable light show with over 5,000 LED tubes. Urban instigators Jack C. Newell and Seth Unger need your help to Kickstart a pilot of the project, and, at the time of publication, they have less than a week to raise $13,000 to complete their crowdfunding campaign. The underside of the elevated train tracks above Wabash Avenue will be their test site for the lights, which the pair says embrace and celebrate the existing, rather than destroying the character of what is there. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jackcnewell/the-wabash-lights-the-beta-test From the Kickstarter campaign:

For most people visiting or living in Chicago, Wabash Avenue in the Loop is a dark, noisy, sometimes scary place to either avoid or walk quickly through. Positioned between the history of State Street and the futuristic playground of Millennium Park, Wabash Avenue is an underutilized resource in the city for art, culture, and business.

The design calls for 520 light tubes that are programmable every 1.2 inches, and Chicago residents can control the lights using a smartphone or computer. The project was initially entangled in a bit of a bureaucratic red tape, but it now has gained all of the approvals needed to move forward with a pilot outside of the Palmer House Hilton on Wabash Avenue. The duo has been working closely with the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the city government. To contribute to the project and see Chicago’s streets come to life, head on over to their Kickstarter page.