6 Ways to Repurpose the Chicago Spire “Hole”

Beacon / Solomon Cordwell Buenz. Image Courtesy of magazine

With Santiago Calatrava’s unfulfilled Chicago Spire amounting to just a (costly) depression along the Chicago River, what was to be the second-tallest building in the world certainly has not established the legacy it intended. However, following the site’s relinquishment to local developers Related Midwest, it may yet have a meaningful impact on its community. Six Chicago-based firms of various disciplines have developed designs to make use of the “hole” by injecting a public program into the abandoned site.

Check out the inventive proposals, with ideas from firms including UrbanLab and Solomon Cordwell Buenz, after the break.

Controversy Shrouds Chicago’s Plan for the Barack Obama Presidential Library

One of the University of ’s proposed parkland sites. Image Courtesy of University of

The competition to host the new Barack Obama Presidential Library has generated quite a stir, attracting proposals from cities across the United States with Chicago emerging as the current front runner. Amid the debate, that is expected to end with a decision later this month, a new controversy has surfaced on the coattails of the University of Chicago’s speculative plan. The proposed concept involves a land transfer for the library to occupy one of two historic parks designed by iconic landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the 1870s. Read more about the heated debate over using public parkland to house the library, here.

Ranquist Development Group Office / Vladimir Radutny Architects

© Mike Schwartz Photography

Architects: Vladimir Radutny Architects
Location: , IL, USA
Area: 1200.0 ft2
Year: 2014
Photographs: Mike Schwartz Photography

Mediating Mies: Dirk Lohan’s Langham Hotel Lobby at the IBM Building

The former IBM Building in . Image Courtesy of DesignCurial

In 2013 the former IBM Building in Chicago, Mies van der Rohe’s last completed skyscraper, underwent a significant renovation as a part of the tower was converted into a hotel. In this article, originally published in Blueprint issue #338 as “Lobbying for Mies van der Rohe,” Anthea Gerrie catches up with – the Chicago architect who helped his grandfather design the building nearly 50 years ago, and who was called back in to design the new hotel’s entrance lobby.

“It’s not very Mies,” says Dirk Lohan dubiously, in one of the great understatements of the year. We are standing in the double-height reception hall of the Langham Chicago hotel with what looks like dozens of multicoloured glass balloons swimming above us and a mirror-glass frieze adding to a cacophony of glitz and dazzle.

It is indeed the very antithesis of the aesthetic of the architect known for the phrase “less is more”. But then the audacious idea of converting an office building by the most functionalist of architects into a five-star hotel was always going to be problematic.

Intrinsic School / Wheeler Kearns Architects

© Steve Hall – Hedrich Blessing Photography

Architects: Wheeler Kearns Architects
Location: Intrinsic Schools, 4540 West Belmont Avenue, , IL 60641, USA
Year: 2014
Photographs: Steve Hall – Hedrich Blessing Photography

The Chicago Prize Highlights Two Speculative Proposals for Obama’s Presidential Library

Winner / Zhu Wenyi, Fu Junsheng, and Liang Yiang. Image Courtesy of

The Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) has revealed the winners of its fourteenth annual Chicago Prize Competition - The Barack Obama  - following Chicago’s recent selection as one of three cities being considered to host the presidential library

Inspiring designs across the United States, the winning entries aimed to envision a library that could both recognize the President by displaying a collection of mementos from his life and provide the basis for community programs. Contestants were asked to consider the building’s context within the city of Chicago to generate a speculative proposal that not only fosters learning and exploration, but also inspires public discussion. To further encourage creativity, the library’s program was unspecified, allowing participants to decide how to incorporate these civic and educational elements in their designs. 

Ultimately, a distinguished panel selected two winners and three honorable mentions emerged from the competition. The winning proposals and honorable mentions are as follows:

The Destruction of a Classic: Time-Lapse Captures Demolition of Chicago’s Prentice Women’s Hospital

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Following the extensive battle over Bertrand Goldberg’s iconic Prentice Women’s Hospital, the Chicago landmark was demolished a few months ago to pave the way for Perkins+Will’s new Biomedical Research Building for the Feinberg School of Medicine. The four year preservation struggle was marked by repeated appeals to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks and Mayor Rahm Emanuel with attempts to place the building on historic registers, proposals to adapt it for modern use, and design competitions to gain public opinion on the future of the building. Ultimately, the outpouring of global support by architects and preservationists to save Prentice fell short of the political agenda of progress, prioritizing future development over preserving the city’s past.

In the wake of the loss of this icon, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has released a time-lapse video documenting the demolition process of Prentice from start to finish. This incredible footage memorializes the one-of-a-kind building so although the new Biomedical Research Building will soon take its place, a piece of its predecessor will always be remembered.

George Lucas May Reconsider Los Angeles as Potential Home of Self-Titled Museum

Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts

Concerns regarding the environmental sensitivity of George Lucas’ proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago has caused the project to halt, and may even prevent it from being realized. According to a suit filed against the museum by the Friends of the Parks, environmentalists believe that the “mountainous” lakefront proposal, designed by MAD Architects, will disrupt the site’s ecosystem.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Lucas’ hasn’t given up on yet. However, considering that Lucas wants to see the museum built within his lifetime, the 70-year-old Star Wars director is starting to reconsider a University of Southern (USC) campus site in Los Angeles.

Yoko Ono and Project 120 Collaborate to Reimagine Chicago’s Jackson Park

Aerial View of the Park. Image Courtesy of Chicago

Chicago’s is expected to see some big changes in the coming years. Nonprofit organization Project 120 is working to revitalize the park, restoring many of the design aspects implemented by its landscape architect, the famous Frederick Law Olmsted. Alongside this restoration, the park will also receive a new Phoenix Pavilion, homage to Japan’s gift to the US for the 1893 Columbian Exposition. An outdoor performance space will be added to the park, as will an installation funded by musician and activist Yoko Ono. See the details, after the break.

Chicago Architecture Data: A Historic Buildings Guide For the Windy City

Kelly Hall. Image © John Morris

Visiting a city as large as Chicago can be overwhelming. For the architect, this is doubly true. The city is a treasure trove of architectural history, perhaps most notable as the birthplace of the skyscraper and the School. Names like Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Daniel Burnham are commonplace in Chicago, their buildings nestled amidst more modern works by the likes of SOM, Jelmut Jahn, and Studio Gang Architects.

Still more works are hidden away in obscure corners of the city, less well known but equally representative of the time and style in which they were built. In the interest of cataloging these buildings, and bringing attention to those that may not be on the typical city tour, blogger John Morris has created Chicago Architecture Data. A near-comprehensive survey of projects built before 1940 organized by neighborhood and architectural style, Chicago Architecture Data is a veritable history book for the architecture of the Windy City.

Society of Architectural Historians 68th Annual International Conference

Courtesy of

The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) will hold its 68th Annual International Conference in Chicago, , from April 15–19, 2015, with the theme “Chicago at the Global Crossroads.” SAH will celebrate its 75th anniversary during the conference, which includes lectures by Jeanne Gang and Blair Kamin, as well as roundtables and 36 paper sessions covering topics in architecture, art and architectural history, preservation, landscape architecture, and the built environment. SAH is committed to engaging both conference attendees and local participants with public programming that includes over 30 architectural tours, a plenary talk, and a half-day seminar addressing Chicago’s waterways and neighborhoods. Register at sah.org/2015.

Demolished: The End of Chicago’s Public Housing

Courtesy of NPR

NPR journalists David Eads and Helga Salinas have published a photographic essay by Patricia Evans alongside their story of ’s public housing. Starting with Evans’ iconic image of a 10-year-old girl swinging at Chicago’s notorious Clarence Darrow high-rises, the story recounts the rise and fall of , the invisible boarders that shaped it and how the city’s most notorious towers became known as “symbols of urban dysfunction.” The complete essay, here.

Four Presidential Libraries for Obama to Consider

University of at . Image Courtesy of UIC

Of the four locations that are under consideration to host the future Barack Obama presidential library, two have released visions of what could be if their sites were selected – the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Hawaii at Honolulu (UH). UH, who’s offering a stunning oceanside site on Waikiki Beach, paired Snøhetta, MOS, and Allied Works Architecture with local architects to draw up proposals, all of which share a deep connection to nature. UIC, on the other hand, has proposed an idea that reinterprets the library as a systemized network of public infrastructure focused on revitalization.

View all four proposals, after the break.

Studio Gang Behind Supertall Tower Planned for Chicago

© City of

The City of Chicago has officially linked Studio Gang Architects to the massive mixed-use “Wanda Vista” development planned to rise alongside the Chicago River. A trio of interlocking supertall towers, the $900 million riverfront project is expected to become the city’s third tallest building.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin, the tallest part of the skyscraper will reach 1,148 feet and 88 stories, one story less than rumors originally indicated, stirring speculation that the final count has something to due with its Chinese developer and “eight” being considering a lucky number in China.

Kids Science Labs 02 / Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

© Mike Schwartz

Architects: Woodhouse Tinucci Architects
Location: , IL, USA
Area: 7900.0 ft2
Year: 2013
Photographs: Mike Schwartz

University of Illinois at Chicago Daley Library IDEA Commons / Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

© Christopher Barrett

Architects: Woodhouse Tinucci Architects
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Design Team: David Woodhouse, Andy Tinucci, Brian Foote, Ed Blumer
Year: 2011
Photographs: Christopher Barrett, Andy Tinucci

The 9 Most Controversial Buildings of All Time

It is now just over a year since the unveiling of Zaha Hadid’s Al-Wakrah Stadium in Doha, Qatar, and in the intervening twelve months, it seems like the building has never been out of the news. Most recently, remarks made by Hadid concerning the deaths of construction workers under Qatar’s questionable working conditions created a media firestorm of legal proportions. Hadid’s stadium has been widely mocked for its ‘biological’ appearance, not to mention the fact that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, for which the stadium will be built, has encountered a storm of controversy all of its own.

The criticism surrounding Al Wakrah has prompted us to look far and wide for the world’s most debated buildings. Could Al Wakrah be the most controversial building of all time? Check out ArchDaily’s roundup of nine contenders after the break.

Find out which buildings top our controversial list after the break

Gehry Sides with MAD, Defends Lucas Museum from Critics

Courtesy of Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts

With criticism forcing progress on MAD’s “mountainous” Lucas Museum to come to a standstill, Frank Gehry has released a statement on the Tribune urging critics to “take the proper time to review” the museum before dismissing it.

“Chicago is a great city for architecture and has historically supported innovative, forward-looking work. There is a natural impulse to deride a project in the early stages of design, particularly one that has a new shape or expression. This is not a new concept,” says Gehry, citing that both the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall were shrouded in criticism before becoming “great assets to their mutual cities.”