Between States—50 Designers Transform Chicago's Neighborhoods
As designers, there’s nothing more exciting than when an opportunity presents itself to work beyond the usual parameters and really dream big. When the Chicago Architecture Foundation first presented the concept of ‘Between States,’ this is exactly what Principal Joe Valerio along with designers Matt Gamache and Alex Raynor did. The challenge recognized that Chicago is a city full of history, with a wide array of existing infrastructure that is often underutilized. The exhibition was a call for architects to find the city’s bare bones and breathe life into them.
The three chose a ward that lies just south of the McKinley Park neighborhood, known as the Chicago Manufacturing District. Roughly an area equal in size to the Chicago Loop, the block sandwiched by Pershing Road and 43rd Street, is split by a large railyard and lined with 120’ high industrial buildings. These century old structures that were once a workplace for thousands, now look barren and unkept.
Joe, Matt and Alex imagined a hypothetical situation where large tech companies would move into Chicago looking for office space and amenities that would cater to the needs of their workforce. They began to draw a slender, glassy grid of buildings that would add new functions to the existing large floor plates of the manufacturing district. The design would attract technology companies by transforming the district from a single use to a diverse, sustainable place where people can work, live, and play.
These large structures, would work around the existing gridded buildings, and connect the northern and southern neighborhoods by bridging over the railyard. In this way icons such as the Swap-O-Rama flea market would be preserved and celebrated among the new additions.
Most would agree that innovation is key to the success of any city, but Chicago’s rich architectural history demonstrates something more, that it’s ingrained into its core. This exhibition was an exciting exercise, not just for our team, but also for 50 designers that proposed many other fresh ideas; and we were happy to be a part of it.
For more about the exhibition, click here.