2011 Burnham Prize Competition McCormick Place REDUX - results

Added on by Timothy Brown.

The nine person jury met Saturday 16 April at Crown Hall and recognized three winners and seven Honorable Mentions.First Prize to Mohamed Sharif, Felix Monasakanian, Efren Soriano, and Teo Biocina from Los Angeles. Second Prize to Srdan Nad from Ljubljana, Slovenia Third Prize to PATH, Matt Hutchinson and Brandon Pace

Honorable Mentions: Bauenstudio Shin Park / Keojin Jin Charles Dome Gosrisirikul Jason Fisher / Andrew Peters Martin Klaeschen / Carl Ray Miller Brina Foster SOM The CAC, AIA Chicago, and Landmarks Illinois extend their congratulations to the winners and honorable mentions.

not tokyo but anchorage

Added on by Timothy Brown.

I should be in Tokyo now, along with 28 IIT students, on a two week study trip. But our flight was diverted to Anchorage Alaska where we've been stuck since Friday night. Most of the past hours have been spent trying to coordinate communications with the students who were flown to Osaka, Sapporo, and Tokyo. So while things are quiet during the night in Japan, we're making a quick visit to David Chipperfield's Anchorage Museum addition. Then back to phones, texts, and email. And watching the wrenching news on NHK.

2011 Burnham Prize Competition: "McCormick Place REDUX"

Added on by Timothy Brown.

The Chicago Architectural Club is pleased to announce the 2011 Burnham Prize Competition: “McCormick Place REDUX”. This year’s competition is co-sponsored by the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects and Landmarks Illinois and is intended to examine the controversial origins and questionable future of the McCormick Place East Building, the 1971 modernist convention hall designed by Gene Summers of C.F. Murphy Associates and sited along the lakefront in Burnham Park.

Built on parkland meant to be “forever open, clear, and free”, considered an eyesore by open space advocates, and suffering from benign neglect at the hand of its owners, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, Gene Summer’s design for McCormick Place East is nevertheless a powerfully elegant exploration of some of modernism’s deepest concerns. The current building’s predecessor generated withering criticism from civic groups so when it burned in 1967 its critics mobilized. The raw economic power of the convention business served to hasten rebuilding atop the ruins. But while Shaw’s previous building lacked any architectural merit, Gene Summers brought to the new project his years of experience at Mies van der Rohe’s side. The resulting building is a tour de force that succinctly caps the modernist dream of vast heroic column-free interior spaces.

The competition charge

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority claims the building needs $150 million in improvements and that the building is functionally obsolete, too small to remain viable as an exhibition hall. While the facility appears frayed, the building is in fundamentally sound condition. Connected to the larger McCormick Place exhibition complex by a covered bridge over Lake Shore Drive, the stronger connections are to the lakefront, the museum campus and nearby Soldier Field. Surrounded by an over-abundance of parking, served by CTA buses, and bordering the immensely popular lakefront walking/running/biking path, the possibilities for the building and the site would seem boundless. But so far, the only visions for its future to be expressed publicly been total erasure or reuse as a casino.

The “McCormick Place REDUX” competition seeks to launch a debate about the future of this significant piece of architecture, this lakefront site that was effectively removed from the public realm, and the powerful pull of a collective and public claim on the lakefront. This iconic building is caught in the crossfire of a strong, principled, and stirring debate. So the question posed by the competition is quite simple: what would you do with this massive facility? What alternate role might the building play in Chicago should it be decommissioned as a convention hall? And if the building were to go away, how might the site be utilized? What might you do with a million square feet of space on Chicago’s lakefront (along with 4,200 seat Arie Crown theatre)?

Clearly outmoded for its original use, sited on a spectacular stretch of lake-front, and undoubtedly of very significant architectural quality - what visions are there for a resolution?

Link to competition website is here

Reynolds Price

Added on by Timothy Brown.

A fellow North Carolinian, the writer Reynolds Price, died today at the age of 77. According to the news reports he died of complications from a heart attack he suffered Sunday. 

He said once, of Macon North Carolina, “I’m the world’s authority on this place. It’s the place about which I have perfect pitch.”

I can't think of a higher calling for an architect than to be the world authority on some place. I love the idea of having the perfect pitch of a place. I asked Stanley Tigerman for some advice as I was about to finish grad school and he said that to be an architect you had to go someplace and stay put there for 50 years - then you maybe could figure it out. I think I've finally come to understand what he meant by that.

Chicago Architectural Club and MAS Studio Network Reset Competition

Added on by Timothy Brown.

MAS Studio and the Chicago Architectural Club are pleased to announce the competition: NETWORK RESET, a single-stage international competition that seeks to provide ideas and actions that can reactivate the Boulevard System of Chicago and rethink its potential role in the city.

Participants are asked to look at the urban scale and propose a framework for the entire boulevard system as well as provide answers and visualize the interventions at a smaller scale that can directly impact its potential users. Through images, diagrams and drawings we want to know what are those soft or hard, big or small, temporary or permanent interventions that can reactivate and reset the Boulevard System of Chicago.

NETWORK RESET is made possible in part by the generous support of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture LLP

competition link

news from the front

Added on by Timothy Brown.

Yesterday we met at IIT about our graduate admissions targets for the upcoming admissions cycle (I'm the Director of Graduate Admissions at the College Architecture) and one question was how the economy will impact the number of applications. Last year we saw a big spike in applications to the two-year Master of Architecture program. With the number of unemployed architects at a high, many grads of the first 4 of the 4+2 sequence opt to go ahead and do the 2 while "off". My thinking was that as some offices start hiring we might see a drop. The open question is how the devastation will impact applicants to the three-year master of Architecture program. These people are mostly embarking on a new career path and are surely eyeing downstream job prospects. Which leads me to an article on this morning's Morning Edition:

Few professions have been hit harder in this economy than architects. In Seattle alone, thousands of them are out of work. "I know everything there is to know about building a building from a garage in your backyard to a high-rise in downtown Seattle," says Gary Barber, a practicing architect for 30 years. "I have that experience and skill set." Barber exudes passion for his work. But as an architect, skill and passion are no longer enough. There's not much demand for new houses or commercial buildings, and that means not much demand for architects, crane operators or escrow officers.

Not the news I was hoping to hear this morning, but maybe the crunch will allow small, smart, and/or nimble firms to adapt to a rapidly changing professional environment. And students who accurately assess the long-term prospects for practice will be the best people to keep practice more closely aligned with expectations on the part of the people who grant us a monopoly on huge portions of the building design sector.

Chicago Architectural Club Event

Added on by Timothy Brown.

Two announcements: first is that I will be serving as the President of the Chicago Architectural Club this year. We have a full slate of events scheduled along with an international design competition and a Club project. We'll also be organizing the Emerging Visions portfolio competition for young architects.

Second announcement is that the November CAC event will be a talk by Ben Nicholson of the SAIC on "aliens, ghosts, and spirits". Since Ben hired me at IIT and taught me virtually all I know about teaching, this is a chance to re-pay an old debt. And Ben always gives a great lecture.

Talk will be given at Archeworks (corner of Kingsbury and Ontario) at 7:00 pm this Wednesday evening.

Hawthorne Garden

Added on by Timothy Brown.

If there's a better public space in Chicago than the Hawthorne Garden at the Art Institute I've not come across it in my twenty years here. And if there's a more beautiful place to be on a perfect spring morning I hope someone will tell me so that I can go directly there from here - now. Here being the Hawthorne Garden...

Yancey County North Carolina

Added on by Timothy Brown.
Yancey County North Carolina
Yancey County North Carolina

What fifty-four tons of gravel look like just after the truck dumps them. Thirty-five tons of road bond in the top photo spread deep at the bottom end of the road, and another 18 tons or so of washed gravel in the bottom photo dumped off to the side. Cost a thousand dollars for three loads driven up NC 80 from Marion. As soon as we get it spread we'll have good access to the upper end of the site. 


Added on by Timothy Brown.

I'm traveling this week so am a little tardy in commenting on this year's Pritzker Prize. For anyone living in a cave or under a rock (or simply lost in the mountains of western North Carolina) Kazuyo Sejima, and Ryue Nishizawa won it.

SANAA has been on my radar since their subtle but sophisticated competition entry for the MTCC competition at IIT. I'd seen a few of their projects before their work for us at IIT but hadn't managed to get my head around the work - the pachinko parlors were my favorites by far. But their design for the student center struck me as the best of the bunch in that it was extraordinarily quiet and presented a type of emptiness that seemed perfect for the forefront activity of a building capturing streams of activity throughout the day. Materials and close ordering all fit neatly into a re-working of some of Mies' strongest ideas.

Having recently been to NYC where I saw the New Museum, then in Tokyo to see the Dior project on Omotesando, I'm doubly impressed by their handling of surface. I will be joining others, no doubt, in making a tardy visit to Toledo (we've been talking about driving over for a year or so anyway). I regret not seeing the Ishigawa museum while in Japan - also missed the Ito project in Sendai...

I particularly enjoy thinking about the slight adjustments and reconfigurations of the field provoked by a Zumthor-SANAA Pritzker sequence.

Kengo Kuma at IIT

Added on by Timothy Brown.

Serving as a nice cap to our Japan trip, Kengo Kuma was here yesterday to give a lecture on his recent work (during an eight-hour Chicago layover). The lecture was sponsored by the Consulate General and the Japan Foundation so we were fortunate to be able to host the talk here at IIT. I have to admit to only a glancing knowledge of his work until just recently. But that seems to be surprisingly common amongst my friends and colleagues. In fact, it was a group of my students who kept going on and on about him that prompted me to wake up. It's embarassing when your students are out ahead of you, when you are presumably well-informed about the larger world of architecture. Regardless, I owe them.

Dr. Kuma showed two particularly interesting projects: one was a recently completed bamboo house (not the Great Wall project) that seemed to be a complete reconsideration of the surfaces of a house, and another project planned for Napoli using tufo and allowing its porosity to support an overgrowth of plants. He also spoke a bit about the Nezu Museum in Tokyo which we saw but were unfortunately too early for the re-opening (picture above).

We'll be exploring the possibility of some collaborations between IIT and his students at the University of Tokyo. Seems perfectly natural for us to be more active in Japan. Really, how is it that our trip a couple of weeks ago was the College of Architecture's first ever contact with Japan? Too much time in Italy and France.

Link to a funny article at CNN Talk Asia. The "sushi" architect ??????


Added on by Timothy Brown.

I'm still trying to process the past week's flood of impressions, and to get over jetlag. The trip was quick, dense, and incredibly interesting. First impressions of Tokyo were unexpected; there wasn't a strong sense of disorientation as I'd expected. In fact, the city seemed deeply familiar. Less surprising than Seoul. Intense, crowded, but navigating was simple. Language was never an issue since most every key bit of information is presented in either romaji or English. Tokyo subway station announcements are made in English even. The super low density of the outer reaches of Tokyo was odd. Food was amazing, as expected. And the cost of the trip was remarkably low, much less than the cost of ten days in Paris.

Four days in Tokyo allowed us to get a general sense of the city and see a decent selection of first-order sites. Two days in Kyoto also was enough to get a glimpse of the traditional architecture and, more importantly, a few of the remarkable gardens. Undoubtedly, the highlight was the trip down to see the shrines at Ise. I had been hoping to see them for many years so that day was a pilgrimmage for me.

I'll be posting images to my Flickr stream as I get time in the next few days. And I'll add a few more posts as I get my arms around the experience.

Japan bound

Added on by Timothy Brown.

While I have spent a good portion of my life traveling, I do have several gaping holes in my experience. One of the most embarrassing is never having been to Japan. Embarrassing both because Japanese architecture, both traditional and contemporary are so important but also because Japan occupies such huge sections of our collective sense of the world. So a few months ago I decided to organize a student trip there over spring break. It may seem an odd approach to take students on my first, but my many years traveling with architecture students taught me that seeing new things along with a group of highly attuned and perceptive kids will pull you into a place deeply and thrillingly.

Our itinerary is limited to Tokyo and Kyoto, with a daytrip out to Ise Shrine (anyone who has gone through IIT’s second year studio has seen the amazing film on the shrine’s twenty year re-building cycle). We leave tomorrow but would welcome any don’t miss suggestions…

Rosenwald schools

Added on by Timothy Brown.

NYT has an article on the restoration of Rosenwald schools scattered around the south. We are working with one of the original Rosenwald schools at Penn Center as part of our masterplan project. It's currently used as the pre-school facility, but the desire is to expand the Center's early childhood education capacity. So our idea was to either import and restore other at-risk Rosenwald building,s or look for ways to extend the idea into a collection of new buildings.

Daniel Buren's columns in the Palais-Royal

Added on by Timothy Brown.

LeMonde has an article on the renovation of Buren's columns called les deux plateaux. They have just been re-inaugurated after a little over a year's worth of restoration work. Maybe it's just an everyday curse visited on very public art in France, but the cour had been allowed to deteriorate into a real mess. I can't recall when I last saw the water on. I was never much of a fan of the project but the gardens and the cour are, to me at least, one of the ultimate urban ensembles and to see one part in such disrepair was a disappointment.

Penn Center Masterplan

Added on by Timothy Brown.

I'm at Penn Center on St. Helena Island this week with five students from my fall semester design studio at IIT. We've been working on a master-plan for the Penn Center campus this semester and we've been invited down to present the first round of schemes at today's meeting of the Board of Directors. We did a preliminary presentation to the staff yesterday afternoon upon arrival, and will go before the full Board this morning.


The studio was a comprehensive building design studio so each student also developed a full building project as well as developing the campus plan in large groups. Once finished with the project for the National Park Service's planned Gullah Cultural Center, the two planning teams re-formed and crunched out the final iterations of the overall campus schemes. The central part of this extraordinarily beautiful site is a National Historic Landmark so the planning context is rich and challenging.

While we are working on an island that is well-known for its isolation and cultural distinctness, it's interesting to note how we were working over the past few days. As we started preparing the presentations, since the students had already started to disperse for the break, we had drawings coming in from Bangladesh, from Hong Kong, from San Francisco, from Texas, from the Chicago suburbs, and, via email, even from across the studio space. Last evening we were even downloading renderings from Chicago to a mobile phone. (But we were downloading to an i-phone because internet access here on St. Helena is spotty. Even mobile phone service is thin. Our ability to transfer drawings around the globe without a thought puts the lack of basic high-speed internet access in places like this into high relief.)

The weather is a gift for us, having left Chicago winter only to find a lovely warm, blessedly humid, 77 degrees. In the place of slush we have live oaks, palmetto trees, fresh shrimp galore, she-crab soup, and the ever-present smells of the marsh and tidal creeks.