The Future of Chicago Hangs in the Balance…
“What might this city become?” – Previous generations have answered this question with revolutionary innovations such as skyscrapers, massive infrastructural undertakings and the redefinition of how people and goods move across the country. Fast forward the tape, and the irony is that we now find ourselves in a position where we must actively combat the adverse effects these ground breaking modifications and conveniences have lead us to. So, where do we go from here? Fortunately, architectural design students from four Chicago academic institutions (Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Archeworks and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) have helped us to imagine the practical and surreal possibilities of our future cityscape in The Chicago Architectural Foundation’s exhibit Unseen City: Designs for a Future Chicago.
Last May, I graduated from Clemson University’s landscape architecture and planning program where my passion for innovation drove me to focus on creatively addressing the challenges that face our towns and cities regarding their viability, sustainability, economic productivity and most importantly, restoring their unique sense of identities. A year later, and creating productive landscapes and dreaming up ways to sustain our future are still the things that excite me most about the fields of landscape architecture and planning.
It is my belief that as planners and designers, it is our inherent responsibility to have the foresight to plan for the future and develop strategies to sustain the next generations. The only way I believe this can be accomplished is through open collaboration among engineers, architects, landscape architects, scientists, community members and acknowledge the fact that no matter what title may fall after our name, we are all intrinsically bound together in this undertaking. As I made my way around the room, it was clear that the participants in this exhibition felt the same.
So as you can imagine, I was very eager to delve deeper into what new ideas each design team had come up with. Immediately, I was drawn to the University of Illinois at Chicago’s display; Visionary Chicago: A Guide to Urban and Architectural Dreams and its illuminated, hovering buildings scattered above the city. UIC’s goal was to depict a dreamlike version of a Chicago that may never be. IIT’s contribution to the display was concept models plugged into the urban fabric representing the individual projects main goals and objectives metaphorically, which I found to be a whimsical juxtaposition to the rigid surrounding structures. As a whole, it was an extremely effective way to become oriented with the scale and scope of each project, and to see the range of ideas each institution had created.
Sustainability has become a very frequently used word that has taken on numerous, varying definitions. For me, living sustainably involves choosing a lifestyle that aids in the preservation of the Earth, and also aims to ensure the survival of future generations. That being said, I became fascinated with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s exhibit; Hi-Rise, Lo-Carb, a collection of six student projects inspired by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture’s Chicago DeCarbonization Plan and that collaborated with the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. One project, CO2ngress Gateway Towers (shown below) imagines productive skyscrapers that “scrub the air” by filtering CO2 from the air, and then directing it towards algae growth to generate bio-fuels.
An interactive monitor sits adjacent to the physical model, which brings a flat piece of paper to life as a three dimensional image that can be rotated and manipulated freely for an even more comprehensive understanding of each IIT student’s Hi-Rise, Lo-Carb designs.
The other projects within the exhibition were all truly inspired and included wetland habitats well above sea level, waste management practices turned cultural experience, farms in the sky, the reimagining of an underutilized industrial corridor into a creative industry hub and the list goes on. Each project was quite unique, but ultimately had the same overarching goal of creating a more livable future for Chicago, as well as inspiring a positive outlook for the future in the observer.
Clean Tower by Kyle Bigart & Peter Binggeser (IIT)
Plymouth Tower by Christopher Reddy & Matthew Byrne (IIT)
Whether you are an architecture buff, an avid environmentalist or simply an interested Chicagoan, there is plenty of fascinating information and eye opening visuals to keep you thinking about what Chicago’s future urban environments are going to look like long after you leave the exhibit.
Share your experience of the exhibition at: firstname.lastname@example.org and if you have your own big idea for the future of Chicago, find out how you can participate in Unseen City II here: www.architecture.org/unseencity