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Alternative Realities: 7 Radical Buildings That Could-Have-Been

In It’s A Wonderful Life the film’s protagonist George Bailey, facing a crisis of faith, is visited by his guardian angel, and shown an alternate reality where he doesn’t exist. The experience gives meaning to George’s life, showing him his own importance to others. With the increasing scale of design competitions these days, architectural “could-have-beens” are piling up in record numbers, and just as George Bailey's sense of self was restored by seeing his alternate reality, hypothesizing about alternative outcomes in architecture is a chance to reflect on our current architectural moment.

Today marks the one-year-anniversary of the opening of Phase 3 of the High Line. While New Yorkers and urbanists the world over have lauded the success of this industrial-utility-turned-urban-oasis, the park and the slew of other urban improvements it has inspired almost happened very differently. Although we have come to know and love the High Line of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations, in the original ideas competition four finalists were chosen and the alternatives show stark contrasts in how things might have shaped up.

On this key date for one of the most crucial designs of this generation, we decided to look back at some of the most important competitions of the last century to see how things might have been different.

Joseph Marzella's second-place design for the Sydney Opera House. Image via The Daily Mail Designs for the Chicago Tribune Tower by Adolf Loos (left) and Bruno Taut, Walter Gunther, and Kurz Schutz (right). Image via Design for the High Line by Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and studio MDA. Image via University of Adelaide on Cargo Collective Moshe Safdie's design for the Centre Pompidou. Image Courtesy of Safdie Architects

New Horizon_architecture From Ireland

New Horizon_architecture from Ireland, a series of presentations of the work of emerging Irish practices in three high-profile venues around the world, opens at Chicago Design Museum on October 3rd and runs until January 3rd, 2016 as part of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Presented by Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) in partnership with Chicago Design Museum, this flagship exhibition of Irish architecture and the built environment is a key element of ID2015, a year-long initiative backed by the Irish government exploring, promoting and celebrating Irish design throughout Ireland and internationally.

Liquid Happening: A Living Architecture Ball

Aboard a private yacht, this event will break traditional molds of evening public lectures that promote excellence, diversity, as well as engaging the public about the impact and relevance of architecture, good design including providing continuing education. Attendees and guests will come out reenergized, as they mingle, tour Chicago through Lake Michigan and Chicago River in a private yacht, and engage in dialogue with Keynote Speaker, Dr Rachel Armstrong. The evening's topic centers on an ecological age of design and construction that seeks to develop new ways of choreographing space by working along with natural systems. The black-tie and tie-dyed evening cruise will culminate at the rooftop of a secret high rise building location (to be revealed on the day of the event) for a viewing of the Living Ball installation of the Leapfrog Project.

Chicago Architecture Club Announces 2015 Burnham Prize Competition: Currencies of Architecture

UPDATE: The deadline for submissions for the Burnham Prize has been extended to September 7th, 2015 with the announcement of the winning entries to occur on September 30th, 2015. In addition, student entry fees have been reduced to $25.00.

Affiliated with this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Chicago Architectural Club has announced the 2015 Burnham Prize Competition: Currencies of Architecture. This year’s Burnham Prize was inspired by the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s title, “The State of the Art of Architecture,” and explores the question: what is the state of the art of architecture today? Entrants are challenged to create a single image that exemplifies a point of view on the current state of architecture – whether it is a celebration, a challenge, a statement or anything else.

Spotlight: Louis Sullivan

Known as Chicago's "Father of Skyscrapers," Louis Sullivan foreshadowed modernism with his famous phrase "form follows function." Sullivan was an architectural prodigy even as a young man, graduating high school and beginning his studies at MIT when he was just 16. After just a year of study he dropped out of MIT, and by the time he was just 24 he had joined forces with Dankmar Adler as a full partner of Adler and Sullivan.

Official Trailer of the Chicago Architecture Biennial Released

On October 3 the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, The State of the Art of Architecture will commence. The “largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America," the exhibition is designed to be a multiplatform event that will host an array of radical ideas, projects and spatial experiments from more than 100 international architects that "demonstrate how creativity and innovation can radically transform our lived experience."

Cermak McCormick Place Station / Ross Barney Architects

  • Architects: Ross Barney Architects
  • Location: Cermak-McCormick Place, Chicago, IL 60616, USA
  • Design Team: Carol Ross Barney, FAIA; Eric Martin, AIA; Ryan Giblin, AIA, LEED AP; Andrew Vesselinovitch, AICP Mordecai Scheckter, LEED AP; Sung-Joon Kim, LEED AP; Anna Ninoyu; Huili Feng; Monica Chadha; Nicolas Sanchez, LEED AP; Sallie Schwartzkopf, AIA; Amy Chun; Corrine Knight
  • Project Year: 2015
  • Photographs: Kate Joyce Studios

© Kate Joyce Studios © Kate Joyce Studios © Kate Joyce Studios © Kate Joyce Studios

Obama to Cast Global Search for Chicago Presidential Center Architect

In May, the University of Chicago was selected to host the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Now referred to as the Barack Obama Presidential Center, the building's task force is expected to cast a global call in search of an architect. As the Chicago Tribune reports, officials sent a request for qualifications to a select group of architects yesterday, although others are welcome to submit. All those interested must send their credentials by September 16. 

"The foundation and its advisers wanted to present the president and first lady with a strong and broad list of options," a foundation spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune. "We are looking at architects who represent a broad range of approaches and styles, but who all have a position of eminence within the architecture profession and have achieved some degree of public recognition."

Inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial Reveals Official List of 2015 Participants

A 40-strong list of international studios has named the official participants of the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial - the “largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America.” Chosen by Biennial Co-Artistic Directors Joseph Grima and Sarah Herda - who are supported by an advisory council comprising David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry, Sylvia Lavin, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Peter Palumbo, and Stanley Tigerman - each participating practice will convene in Chicago to discuss "The State of the Art of Architecture" and showcase their work from October 3 to January 3, 2016.

“The city of Chicago has left an indelible mark on the field of architecture, from the world’s first modern skyscraper to revolutionary urban designs,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “That’s why there’s no better host city than Chicago for this rare global event. The Chicago Architecture Biennial offers an unprecedented chance to celebrate the architectural, cultural, and design advancements that have collectively shaped our world.”

A complete list of participants, after the break. 

Chicago Architecture Biennial Announces Lakefront Kiosk Winners

The Chicago Architecture Biennial, in partnership with the Chicago Park District and BP, has announced the winner of its Lakefront Kiosk Competition, which sought out designs for an innovative lakefront kiosk to be inaugurated on October 3 for the opening of the Biennial.

In addition to the winner of the competition, the Biennial is also partnering with local schools—the Illinois Institute of Technology, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago—in order to build three more kiosks to be featured at the Biennial. View the grand prize design, as well as three competition finalists, honorable mentions, and the three architecture school designs after the break.

CAF Launches Open Competition for New Chicago Headquarters

The Chicago Architecture Foundation has launched an open international ideas competition for a facility that will include a new headquarters, visitor center and exhibition space for CAF; a new headquarters for the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH); a design and allied arts high school; and flexible learning spaces for out-of-school-time youth programs. The project, dubbed the Center for Architecture, Design and Education (CADE) will a new kind of learning campus aimed to "equip young people to be stewards for the built environment of the 21st Century."

Design With Company + Arup Create “Shaw Town” Theatre in Chicago

Chicago based architecture studio Design With Company, in collaboration with Arup, have constructed their winning proposal for the Ragdale Ring design competition, which asked entrants to redesign Howard Van Doren Shaw’s 1912 performance venue for a Chicago artists’ community. Their design lightheartedly references features of Shaw’s architecture, while creating a venue for acoustically unamplified performances.

Courtesy of Robert Becker/Design With Company Courtesy of Allison Derr/Design With Company Courtesy of Robert Becker/Design With Company Courtesy of Allison Derr/Design With Company

The Top 10 Most Impactful Skylines

Emporis, a German company that collects and distributes information on construction and the built environment, has released a ranking of the world’s 100 most visually impactful skylines, using statistical analysis to address a topic often made frustratingly subjective by civic pride. 

To create the rankings, Emporis used data from its archives to determine the number of high-rise buildings in the cities it studied, and applied a points system that gave each building a numerical value determined by the number of floors it has. To standardize their ranking process, the points system ignores spires and other ornament, and does not include television or antenna towers, masts, bridges, or similar architecture. 

Of the top 10 most impactful skylines, seven are in Asia, while North and South America combined have the other three. Notably, cities filled with rich architectural history fail to make the list, or fall surprisingly low in the rankings; London is number 44, Paris is ranked 66, and Rome does not make the cut. 

To see the top ten skylines, read on after the break, and click here to see Emporis' complete list.

PORT Urbanism and R2 Companies Propose Plan to Revitalize Chicago’s Goose Island

Hoping to reverse the fortunes of this small but distinctive area of Chicago, real estate development firm R2 Companies and urban planning group PORT Urbanism have teamed up to devise a plan to renew Goose Island. A man-made island with a long history of manufacturing, Goose Island lacks the revenue stream of many other Chicago regions, but the development team hopes to improve conditions by 2025 by enabling it to develop into a sustainable, high-tech neighborhood connected to Chicago’s urban grid.

Diagram of existing conditions on Goose Island. Image Courtesy of PORT Diagram of proposed transportation improvements for Goose Island. Image Courtesy of PORT Rendered plan of the Goose Island proposal. Image Courtesy of PORT Diagram of the Goose Island proposal. Image Courtesy of PORT

Studio Gang to Design Net Positive Energy Campus for Chicago Children's Academy

Studio Gang has been selected to design a 60,000 square-foot campus for the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) in Chicago. Aimed to be the city's greenest campus, the net positive energy scheme will be designed as a space for learning that will "break down barriers between kids." The campus will include classrooms, an international learning laboratory, a teacher professional development center, an early childhood center, and an urban food production center. 

Poll: Who Will Design Obama's Presidential Library and Museum?

On Tuesday, the Barack Obama Foundation is expected to officially announce its decision to build Obama's presidential library and museum in Chicago. With two sites under consideration - Washington Park or Jackson Park - speculation has now shifted towards the architect. Who will design the  Presidential Library and Museum?

Will it be David Adjaye, the London-based, Tanzanian-born architect who designed the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture (which will complete next year)? Or how about one of the city's leading architects: Jeanne Gang, Helmut Jahn, Ralph Johnson or John Ronan? Perhaps it will be Philip Freelon; as the Chicago Tribune's Blair Kamin points out, Obama made a recent visit to a library he designed in Washington DC. Some are even considering Renzo Piano; Michelle Obama seemed to have a deep appreciation for his newly constructed Whitney Museum when she spoke at its dedication ceremony a few weeks back.

With all this to bear in mind, who do you think will design the  Presidential Library and Museum? Answer a poll after the break. 

University of Chicago Selected to Host Barack Obama Presidential Library

According to Forbes, the University of Chicago has been selected to be the official home of the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. The proposal, selected over sites at Columbia University, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, will be built in the city's South Side Hyde Park, near a home owned by the Obamas.