Second Second City / Design With Company

Courtesy +

The Urbana Illinois (140 miles South of Chicago) situated design team, Design With Company, has partnered with Min Chen to develop their latest project, Second Second City, which they have shared with us here at ArchDaily. Additional images of their vision for Chicago’s McCormick Place East and a narrative from the architects can be seen after the break.

Courtesy Design With Company + Min Chen

This project contends with the competing and overlaid desires for the site of the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago by creating a new tourist destination and scenario-planning infrastructure from the existing architecture. On the roof, a 1:25 miniature replica of Chicago is constructed. A clear mound protects the model, provides space for artificial weather equipment and creates unexpected visual connections between both Chicagos.

Courtesy Design With Company + Min Chen

Within the mound, the model acts as a simulator for various future scenarios. Consequences of global warming, new construction, earthquakes, fires, asteroid impacts, tornadoes, blizzards etc. are tested repeatedly while appropriate action plans are calculated. On the exterior, the mound presents a new urban landmark along Lake Shore Drive, provides space for new lake shore activities, and redirects views through and around the existing building.

Courtesy Design With Company + Min Chen

The desire and plan to secure the waterfront for public access and parkland is directly attributable to Daniel Burnham and the 1909 Chicago Plan. At the time, nature and the city were conceived as separate, complementary entities. The opportunity to get away from the city and into nature was believed to cleanse the spirit and the attempts to “aerate” the urban fabric were to let it “breath.” Nature injections within the vast artificial construction were thought to cure urban ills. This proposal updates this urban operation manual with a new unnatural natural landmark. A 1/25th scale snowglobe enhancement surgery for the city.

Courtesy Design With Company + Min Chen

The story of the project is primarily told through the visitor information documents. These include maps, promotional material and merchandise catalogs. It is a National Geographic exploration of an urban nature, archeology and anthropology.

Courtesy Design With Company + Min Chen
Cite: Jarz, Hank. "Second Second City / Design With Company" 12 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>
  • Tosh

    I really don’t understand what’s the idea for this project and what the outcome is.. I read it but it makes no sense, just as this “mound” that you are talking about it..

  • Steve

    I also don’t quite see the overall value of this, beyond the admittedly neat idea of walking through a scale version of your own city. I question how the mound can enable simulations of global warming, fires etc. It just seems like it would be extremely expensive, without clear value to justify it. If it were just a simple 1:25 scale model, I’d be more supportive.

  • rs

    I dont understand the scale city. Its not really a neat idea. If you walk 1/2 mile to the Architecture foundation, you can see a scale model of Chicago.

    Why would someone want to enter a big bubble and experience phenomena that you could experience outside. Is there not a better way to make people aware of their context?

  • Jennifer Morris

    You are indeed correct, there is a wonderful 320-square-foot model of Chicago located within the building at 224 South Michigan Avenue. This model is complete with digital visualizations and an exploration of the 1960s plan of Chicago. However, this model is only an exhibit which was not originally meant to be permanent and has only lasted so long thus far based on its popularity. Moreover, this model can not provide individuals with “consequences of global warming, new construction, earthquakes, fires, asteroid impacts, tornadoes, blizzards, etc.” Nor can this information be provided to us from a simple outdoor experience.

    I am unclear as to the expense of this particular project, the mound, and do not understand the exact way in which this project can provide individuals with the above mentioned consequences. On the other hand, based on the popularity of the model city at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, I do not doubt that such a mound would be valuable to the public. The more ways which we can provide individuals to learn about their connection to architecture and urban planning the better. Especially if these individuals do not typically have any other way of understanding space.

  • Oscar Lopez

    I feel that the underlining ideas behind this project make it a stronger project than the one being presented. We as citizens of the cities that we inhabit often get lost in the everyday scenarios that we occupy ourselves with. It is for this reason that when we become visitors of other cities that we travel to we often become a clear voice as to what that city has to offer and how those conditions could be better implemented. We often need to step back from our current condition to better understand the social or built problems that our cities have. With the concept of having a scaled city that we can occupy, we are beginnging to view and inhabit our daily lives through a new perspective. Although, I still feel that the 1:25 scale seems a bit arbitrary, maybe through studies of urban conditions and ergonomics we can come up with a scale that would best enhance the problems that could be solved by inhabiting our cities at a new scale.