Posts tagged with "JGMA":

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JGMA overhauls a former Kmart for a progressive Chicago high school program

Before JGMA was given the job to design a new school for the Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep (CRSM), it was working with students and faculty in design charrettes. The high school was looking for a design and an architect as progressive as its approach to education, which endeavors to have students function at college level by the time they graduate. On top of offering typical coursework, CRSM matches students with corporations; the students work for the corporations and in turn the corporations sponsor them. Now, the school is hoping to have a campus that lives up to its academic ambitions.

The path to a state-of-the-art school has not necessarily been clear. Currently located in a building in desperate need of repair and updating, CRSM has had no room to expand—even after the school bought a nearby abandoned Kmart store. It took working with the JGMA team to realize a design that would transform the banal nature of a big-box structure into a cohesive campus.

One of the first and most difficult challenges of the project was to remove the stigma of the big box and its not-so-appealing suburban surroundings: Seas of parking lots, strip malls, and fast-food joints surround the site. So JGMA worked to break up the monotony of the vast concrete lot and sterile facade of the building. “These students are used to getting hand-me-down everything,” noted JGMA designer Katie LaCourt. “Their current building is a hand-me-down. Overcoming this stigma associated with the big box was one of our first concerns.”

The artificially lighted interior also needed to be addressed. This came in the form of the biggest and most visible move in the project: plans for three large cuts to be taken out of the roof and facade of the building. These cuts will bring light into and throughout the building, interrupting the visual form of the 120,000-square-foot structure. Playing on the Kmart’s original decorated shed form, a second facade will be draped over the building, giving it a completely different appearance and character. Additionally, the former parking lot at the front of the building will be covered by a soccer field, distancing the building further from its big-box roots.

The large cuts will also provide common areas between the teaching spaces to create the feeling of a campus rather than a single building. Outside of the building, the planned landscaping mirrors these cuts. Long paths will extend from the front and the back of the building to provide outdoor learning areas and connect a marsh to the campus.

Though on track to begin construction by early spring 2017, the conversion process is a long one. Working to accommodate the school and its students, JGMA has divided the project into three phases. The first phase will involve converting 50,000 square feet of the floor area and making two of the designed cuts. This will allow the current 375 students to move into the new space. When the second phase is complete, the entire building will have been converted, and the school will be able to expand to its goal of 500 students. The third and final stage will be the landscaping, which will complete the transformation to an educational campus.

JGMA’s conversion of this empty Kmart is not the first of its kind, but it is indicative of changes happening in many of America’s suburbs. Many big boxes across the country, which for numerous reasons have closed or moved into new spaces, have begun to be redeveloped. In a few notable examples, large stores have been converted into city libraries. In Eden Prairie, Minnesota, BTR Architects converted a former grocery store into the county’s public library; just as for the Cristo Rey project, light and large expansive spaces were issues that had to be addressed. Others have been converted into fitness centers and go-kart tracks, and one even became a Spam museum. These conversions have achieved varied levels of success and innovation. When complete, Cristo Rey will arguably be one of the most ambitious.

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Explore proposals from the CAF's 50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards

In celebration of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 50th anniversary, the Foundation is hosting an exhibition titled 50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards which features unique architectural and urban design proposals born for each of Chicago’s 50 wards. The exhibition is currently on display at the CAF Atrium Gallery. The wards should not to be mistaken for Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods; each ward is “a legislative district represented by a directly elected alderman and the aldermen comprise the city council,” as The Architect's Newspaper wrote back in May. (Read our interview with Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen of Chicago-based UrbanLab, who put together the exhibition.) In preparation for the exhibition, 50 different Chicago-based designers, artists, and architects analyzed all aspects of the city, including buildings, roadways, waterways, other infrastructure systems, and even vacant lots. From this, they each produced one unique proposal for each ward. The proposals are split into four categories: Gather, Reclaim, Dwell, and Activate. These categories address the themes of public space activation, economic activity stimulation, pop-up/temporary interventions, and quality of housing improvement, respectively. For example, Fiction Fort, in the Gather category and by Design With Company, is a small pavilion used to house a free public book exchange in the 19th Ward. The proposal notes that, “[t]he exterior ‘walls’ are fashioned from elements that resemble open books and small gabled houses,” facilitating a physical experience when exchanging books. The design echoes the Gothic style of Givins' Irish Castle (Beverly Unitarian Church), a prominent building within the ward. One Reclaim proposal is Food Infrastructure by JGMA. This proposal for the 22nd Ward addresses the problem of food waste in Chicago. The design calls for transformation of the Crawford Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in the ward, into a biodigester that would harvest the methane gas of wasted food. Jurassic Studio’s proposal for the 30th Ward, Backyard Arcade, is a commercial and communal space in the Dwell category. The design transforms the backsides of residences into a “commercial arcade.” “The arcade is a covered passageway or street often lined with ground-floor shops and second-story offices or workrooms,” the proposal describes. In the Activate category is 606+, a design by RANGE Design & Architecture for the 26th Ward. While vague in its proposal, the design looks to adaptively reuse industrial buildings and spaces along The 606, a linear park that was created from an abandoned railroad. The proposal consists of “3 Acts”:  606+ ArtsFest, a public festival space; Bloomingdale Gallery, an art gallery; and Kimball Theater, a community performance area. A final proposal, uncategorized, is work of John Ronan Architects, a firm in the running for the Barack Obama Presidential Center library project (the winner is likely to be announced in June or July of this year). Their proposal for the 45th Ward aims to revamp the existing Jefferson Park into the Jefferson Park Exchange, adding “a new civic cultural center consisting of a community art center, library and market to leverage the area’s cultural diversity and create a lively place of exchange.” The exhibition was curated by Martin Felsen and Sarah Dunn, co-founders of the Chicago-based office UrbanLab, and Reed Kroloff, CAF’s Senior Advisor for Programs and Industry Collaboration, in addition to CAF. Read more about the exhibit here.
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Our studio visit with Chicago's JGMA

Trains rumble past the large, plate-glass windows of the oft-overlooked Holabird & Root McClurg building on the east end of Chicago’s Loop. And though the train is less than 20 feet away from the second-story office of JGMA, one is more likely to hear the discussion of facade materials and patterning over a raucous game of foosball as the young office takes lunch. Despite the office’s very “Chicago” setting, it bears little resemblance to the more well-known behemoths of Chicago architecture, many in buildings less than a block away.

At only 18 employees (there are 16 desks, so someone is always standing, model building), JGMA is atypical for a Chicago architecture firm in almost every way. Small firms in Chicago are often relegated to smaller projects, and they are rarely given the opportunity to design the kind of challenging architecture that is now JGMA’s signature.

The office’s work ranges from exhibitions to high-rises and everything in between. With a reputation for producing  projects that are particularly sensitive to the client as well as the surrounding community, JGMA founder and president, Juan Gabriel Moreno, is quick to point out that he has no intention of specializing in socially conscious design. “I love to say that we are not specialists,” he said. “People try to pin me down, they ask, ‘What do you specialize in?’ I just say, ‘Architecture.’”

As its projects rake in awards, JGMA continues to challenge what architecture can be in Chicago. Each project takes on new distinctive forms and colors. The work is decidedly radical in a city of black glass boxes. Yet even as conservative as the world of Chicago architecture can be, JGMA has found a way to resonate with the traditional establishment as well as the greater public. Its latest major structure, the Northeastern Illinois University El Centro building, has won both a Chicago AIA Honor Award and the Chicago Neighborhood Development Award, a distinction usually earmarked for housing projects.

All of this happens in an office that prides itself on the mentorship of its young employees. With more than a dozen projects on the boards, everyone is expected to pull his or her weight, and those with more experience are expected to keep the projects in check. “What happens here, and my approach just holistically, is that everyone has a voice, period. I don’t care if you just arrived. What I am trying to establish is an environment where people are courageous enough to say what is on their minds.” 

UNO The United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Soccer Academy Elementary School is located in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Gage Park in southwest Chicago. The design of the building brings the students and community together in its sweeping form that wraps around the school’s central soccer field. Classrooms and circulation spaces are filled with natural light, and views of the city are visible through long expanses of glass. UNO is a certified LEED Silver Project.

El Centro The blue and yellow finned El Centro sits along one of Chicago’s busiest interstates. Motorists see shifting form and color as they fly (or crawl, depending on traffic) past the low-slung form. El Centro is the urban campus of Northeastern Illinois University and includes 56,000 square feet of classrooms, computer labs, a multimedia resource center, conference rooms, and community rooms. Even before the project was completed, and subsequently began to collect accolades, it was garnering the city’s attention. Moreno explained a moment when a concerned onlooker  questioned the building’s cantilever: “I can remember while the steel was being framed, on the north side of the building there is a diagonal cut. For shoring purposes, our structural engineer reminded the erectors that they had to put a shoring column in. I started to get calls, ‘Don’t tell me you lost the cantilever, Juan!’ That’s when I knew people were engaging with the building.”

KLEO Keep Loving Each Other (KLEO) is a South Side Chicago not-for-profit focused on facilitating the area’s arts community. Located just south of the University of Chicago, in an area that is experiencing a renaissance of art culture, JGMA’s KLEO apartments will provide 60 affordable units for senior artists with studio spaces, community rooms, and retail space. “As soon as you go into something that is quote unquote ‘social,’ people start talking about punched openings. This is for artists and the quality  of light matters. So let’s look at a monolithic polycarbonate building,” Moreno said. The polycarbonate allows for a simply installed system, which provides extreme flexibility in facade coloring and patterning. It also produces exceptional soft working light for artists. JGMA is going through standards and tests to ensure the polycarbonate system (rarely used in the United States) meets the rigorous Chicago fire codes.

Cristo Rey As part of the national network of private charter schools aiding underserved communities, Cristo Rey asked JGMA to design a school that matched its unconventional curriculum. When finished, the school—located in Waukegan, Illinois—will be housed in a former Kmart big-box building. By replacing much of the oversize parking lot with a sports field, wrapping the facade, and literally cutting the building into pieces, JGMA is working to distance the school from its less academic past. Large cuts through the building will bring much needed light to the expansive floor area and connect the interior to the wetland area behind the building.

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JGMA wins Chicago Neighborhood Development Award, immediately donates prize money

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.
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Chicago Architecture Foundation Honors Patrons of the Year

The end of the year is nigh, and the season of awards and lists is at hand. In addition to the AIA Chicago awards to be presented tonight, the Chicago Architecture Foundation this week announced their Patron of the Year Awards. “Good buildings only happen with good clients,” read a statement presented by Williams + Tsien at the ceremony. Great buildings, however, only happen when clients are “unreasonable” in their commitment to good design, the David & Reva Logan Center for the Arts architects said. The winning projects included the Logan Center, CTA’s Morgan Station (Ross Barney Architects), Inspiration Kitchens (Wheeler Kearns Architects), and Rush University Medical Center (Perkins + Will). CAF also awarded two honorable mentions: Morris Architect Planners’ Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, and JGMA’s Instituto del Progreso. Accepting her award for the West Loop’s new Morgan Station Green/Pink line stop, Carol Ross Barney said she wanted to debunk the axiom “good enough for government.” Transit projects are critical, she said: “This isn’t even a building. It’s the blood and guts of our city.”