Perhaps no building is closer to a date with the wrecking ball in Chicago than the James R. Thompson Center. While those responsible for initiating this threat cite years worth of deferred maintenance and high costs of operation as the primary reasons for their decision, these are not the real reasons for the building’s demise. It suffers from a much more lethal ailment — treating it like a normal building. In this video, Stewart explains why the Thompson Center is definitely not a normal building and offers alternative ways to evaluate it. What if we considered it to be a piece of urban infrastructure or public plaza instead? Relating the building to Rem Koolhaas’ theory of ‘Bigness’, this video builds the case that the Thompson Center should be valued for how it brings people together in space rather than its colors, or material palette, or any other normal ways of appraising mere buildings.
Architecture with Stewart is a YouTube journey exploring architecture’s deep and enduring stories in all their bewildering glory. Weekly videos and occasional live events breakdown a wide range of topics related to the built environment in order to increase their general understanding and advocate their importance in shaping the world we inhabit.
Stewart Hicks is an architectural design educator that leads design studios and lecture courses as an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also serves as an Associate Dean in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts and is the co-founder of the practice Design With Company. His work has earned awards such as the Architecture Record Design Vanguard Award or the Young Architect’s Forum Award and has been featured in exhibitions such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial and Design Miami, as well as at the V&A Museum and Tate Modern in London. His writings can be found in the co-authored book Misguided Tactics for Propriety Calibration, published with the Graham Foundation, as well as essays in MONU magazine, the AIA Journal Manifest, Log, bracket, and the guest-edited issue of MAS Context on the topic of character architecture.