We are inviting you-- “you” here meaning architects, urban planners, students. academics, aficionados, transit officials, city workers, urban dwellers, suburban commuters, and in short: designers-- to participate in an ideas exposition that attempts to identify and propose solutions to impediments to development that will come to define the city of Chicago by the year 2050.
The Think Tank invites participants to consider the state of the Midwestern megaregion centered on the Chicago node, examine the effects of growth on the city’s urban and suburban spaces and propose alternative infrastructures for transit and connection that will shape the next thirty years. Although America 2050 defines the Midwestern megaregion as extending from Chicago out to Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Detroit, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Rochester, and the Quad Cities, for the purposes of the Think Tank we will be examining the region with a special focus on Chicago, the major hub linking many of these cities to each other.
The Think Tank challenges designers, speakers, and thought leaders with identifying a specific problem within one of four major types of urban and suburban categories:
Housing and Homelessness
In 2018 the University of Chicago Urban Labs and CSH (Corporation for Supportive Housing) released a study on family homelessness, combining data from the Chicago Homeless Services System and the Chicago Public Schools. The study found that in the year 2017-2018, approximately 10,000 Chicago families experiences homelessness. Roughly 4/5ths of these families were sharing space with friends or relatives. 1 in 3 of these families reported no income, and overwhelmingly these families were below the federal poverty level.1 Combined with these statistics, Chicago is at increased risk for worsening weather conditions due to climate change.
Elsewhere in the region, 8% of DuPage County’s residents (one of the wealthiest counties in the state) live below the poverty line. 16.4% of residents experience severe housing issues on a regular basis. On a single night in January of 2016, a study found that 642 people were homeless in the county.
Rivers and Watersheds
Historically at-risk for pollution and dumping of toxic waste, the Chicago River has seen an upturn in quality in recent years as more and more high-end services, restaurants, and retail set up shop along the river, thanks in large part to efforts by designers to beautify the city’s so-called “Third Coast”. But in many ways, the infrastructure surrounding the river is lacking.
In 2017, a series of July thunderstorms quickly flooded the city’s sewers and poured into the river, carrying a potent toxic blend of waste, chemicals, and other harmful pollutants. In the aftermath, it was estimated that more than 2.6 billion gallons of bacterial sewage had infiltrated the river. Subsequent studies found that sewage actually infiltrates the river once every six days.
Neighboring Whiting, Indiana is home to numerous EPA Superfund sites, one of which-- the BP refinery-- was responsible for dumping nearly 26,000 pounds of toxic waste into Lake Michigan at one point in 2016.6 Elsewhere in the state of Illinois, in the Fox River Valley, large portions of the Fox River (which flows from Wisconsin) are threatened by pollution and waste. Aquatic life in the segment of the river between Elgin and Aurora is threatened by sedimentation and siltation, suspended solids, fecal matter, and pesticides that have remained in the water decades after corporate waste-dumping ended.
Often considered one of the major signals of gentrification, green spaces are found in plenty in wealthier neighborhoods and are generally lacking in lower-income neighborhoods. Researchers have found a corollary effect between access to the city’s green spaces and a decrease in gun violence.8 And nature-insufficiency is linked to increased chronic disease as well.
Yet even access to parks is not a guarantee of safety; many early-00s efforts to add public gardens to low-income neighborhoods around the city failed due to lack of upkeep, and some of those spaces became havens for crime in the decade since. In other parts of the region as well, undeveloped and brownfield land is regarded as a blight, not a feature.
Less than 25 miles from the Loop, Gary, Indiana lies in ruins. A largely-abandoned former steel town founded at the height of the turn-of-the-century manufacturing blitz in the early 20th century, Gary today is mostly empty. Less than 1/3rd of all homes in the city are vacant, and less than 80,000 people remain in the city-- a 55% drop since 1960.
Transportation and Mobility
As a rising megaregion that extends as far north as Milwaukee, as far west as the Fox River Valley, and as far east as the refineries in Indiana and the beaches of southwestern Michigan, Chicagoland sees nearly 400,000 people commute in and out of the city into the suburbs on a weekly basis, via its Metra lines.10 The South Shore line, which runs from the Loop to South Bend, Indiana multiple times a day, sees over 3.5 million riders annually. Additionally, IDOT records show that almost 300 million miles are driven across Illinois roads and highways every single day. Worst of all, statistics show that the average commuter in Chicago wastes 61 hours and $1,445 a year sitting in traffic.
The rise of the Chicagoland megaregion has been widely dissected in the fields of land use and infrastructure planning. Emerging technologies, cultural trends, and economic forces are encouraging us to think of Chicagoland not as a city surrounded by suburbs, but instead as one single, interconnected web of infrastructure, services, and opportunity.
We invite participants to engage in this conversation with architects, artists, engineers, urban planners, and community organizers in order to understand the state of our megaregion and its future. How does a future-focused region centralized around the Great Lakes treat its economy, ecosystems, and citizens? When do state lines and other artificial boundaries become irrelevant in the face of problems on a regional scale? How do we all grow together without losing sight of what we’ve gained along the way? What are the current lost opportunities that can be leveraged with cooperation and communication? How do we improve the transportation corridors that connect our lives and economies?
To answer these questions, we invite you to participate in this conversation by focusing on one of the four problem areas and proposing an innovative solution that builds towards long-term growth and regional stability. Your ingenuity is critical to the success of this exhibition. We can’t wait to see what you uncover. Legat Architects is curating this exhibition in association with DIRTT Environmental Solutions.
Please email Justin Banda of Legat Architects for further information or questions. email@example.com
Sincerely, Justin Banda, Associate AIA
Loren Johnson, AIA, LEED BD+C
WINDOW TO THE FUTURE
To start building solutions, in the Fall of 2019 in conjunction with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Legat Architects will gather thought-leaders from around the nation in Chicago to discuss the implications of these civic issues in a design-centric forum, with a wide slate of topics ranging from precedents for resolving the homeless crisis to discussions with current and future leaders in the transit industry.
The Think Tank is, at its core, an incubator for groundbreaking ideas that reside at the intersection of unlikely disciplines. By drawing from the brain trust comprising multiple co-disciplinary experts across praxis and academia, we hope to engage participants with new allies as we lay out a new plan for the Chicago mega-region.
By partnering with our peers in academia and related professional disciplines, the next generation of designers and students, and future sponsors and patrons of innovative transportation methodologies, we hope to build a professional infrastructure for the future that any participant will be able to collectively access in the future. The connections built during the Think Tank are designed for longevity.
Our most valuable asset as designers is the perspective of those who occupy the city on a daily basis, and that’s you-- you, as a resident of the greater Chicagoland metropolis, are uniquely poised to offer solutions at both macro- and micro-levels to target and propose solutions for the four major issues facing our city’s infrastructure.
That’s why this exhibition is so open-ended-- we are looking for solutions that are forward-thinking, trail-blazing, and oriented towards helping the most people while using the fewest resources. While the problems facing our city today can be terrifyingly real, the vision of where we are headed has to be as boldly future-oriented as we can get. The challenges we are facing are ultimately problems of the imagination, and therefore our solutions must also draw from our collective mind. As designers, we are uniquely poised to address and propose solutions to the ills of our city, and we speak from a shared imagination that pulls from the heart of Daniel Burnham.
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our children and grandchildren are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty.”
As our city moves into the second quarter of the 21st century, broaden your horizons to unexpected sources of inspiration or challenge. The world is changing, and as disruptive technology and broadening disparity impacts our culture, recognize that designers have the power to redirect this energy into more effective endeavors.
We have broadly grouped the challenges facing Chicago into four categories:
- A. Housing and Homelessness
- B. Rivers and Watersheds
- C. Green Spaces
- D. Transportation and Mobility
As a designer, your task is to identify a specific issue within one of these four categories and propose an innovative solution for what the same condition might look like in the year 2050, if corrective measures are taken.
The exhibition will focus on these four themes as guiding topics for discussion within the context of the Think Tank. Each of the four themes touches on elements of architecture, urban planning, infrastructure, civic engagement, public and private land use, sustainability, ethical use, and disruptive technology.
It is the challenge of the designer to identify and isolate specific themes within their purview and propose a solution for that space, whether it is a single site, a neighborhood, a single building, or an entire transit line or body of water. The one requirement from a design standpoint is that every project must exhibit a net positive impact on the local asset, site, or community. This stipulation will provide us with a variety of projects and ideas for discussion at the Think Tank event in September.
In terms of specific requirements for the exhibit, each design team or individual will create one (1) exhibition board (24” x 48”, oriented vertically, single-sided). The board should include one dominant image or impression (such as a rendering or montage) to convey the meaning and value of each intervention. Supporting diagrams, photographs, and other related graphics are encouraged for inclusion on the board, whether as a subset of the primary rendering or as a series of separate sub-images. The designer or team should also include a narrative on the board (position indicated on the template file) no longer than 750 words, indicating the
- A. Extent of the current problem or challenge as it exists today,
- B. Description of the proposed solution depicted graphically on the board, and
- C. The steps required to move from point A (today’s world) to point B (the solution proposed for 2050).
Additional supporting text on the board (such as labels and callouts) is allowed to expound on the themes conveyed in the narrative.
Whatever illustrative technique is chosen, the primary consideration for the designer should be ease of understanding for a lay audience.
Each designer or team should consider the following:
+ Each project should be limited to a single location, based on a pre-existing physical asset or resource. Sites should be limited to one square mile unless a good argument can be made for why a specific project should be exempt.
+ Each project should, within the limits of reason, be capable of functioning as a prototypical solution in some way, shape, or form. We understand that not every solution is addressable to any site, but some consideration should be made to address universal issues.
+ Concepts should be impactful and theoretically actionable, and proposals should be easy to communicate to a broad public audience.
+ Each project should result in a proposed physical outcome or alteration in the built environment. New opportunities and/or amenities should be added, constructed, or adapted into the fabric of the city.
This exhibition is open to any member of the design community interested in architecture, urban design, and planning; or any person enrolled as a student in a related Bachelors’ or Masters’ program at an accredited university.
Entry Fee: $50 (Professional) / $25 (Student)
Registration Opens: July 8, 2019
Registration will open on the Think Tank website on July 8, 2019.
Registration Deadline: August 30, 2019
All teams and individuals must be registered and paid by noon CST.
Digital Submission Deadline: September 6, 2019
Projects emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon CST
Physical Submission Deadline: September 11, 2019
All physical boards (mounted and ready for display) must be delivered to Legat Architects’ Chicago office by end of business.
Prizes Announced: September 27, 2019
Eight awards will be given presented at the Think Tank on September 27, 2019.
Eight awards will be selected by a jury of speakers at the Think Tank event.
While distinctly not a competition, the purpose of these awards is to recognize outstanding effort and merit, and to award those entries which rise above and beyond their peers. These prizes will celebrate projects that best emphasize the following characteristics:
- Visualization (Best Graphics)
- Innovation (Most Innovative)
- Pragmatism (Most Realistic)
- Sustainability (Greenest Proposal)
- Resiliency (Most Regenerative Proposal)
- Health and Wellness (Best for Occupants)
- Educational (Easiest to Understand)
- Student (Best Student Work)
Upon registration, each entrant will receive a 5-digit PIN which will be used for identification. Each entry should submit one (1) physical 24” x 48” board (mounted to foamcore or a similar rigid surface) as well as a digital package containing a PDF version of the physical board and a narrative (no longer than 750 words) contained in a Word document.
Please note that names and other identifying information should not appear anywhere in the submission. Instead, each team’s entry should be identified by the PIN number, which should appear on the bottom-right corner of the submission board and in the header of the team narrative Word document.
Each entry should indicate at the top of the narrative, and on the board in the indicated location, which of the four problem areas it is attempting to offer a correction toward.
Email questions and comments to Justin.
For more information about the Think Tank event on September 27th, please visit our website: http://www.think-tank.design/
Comment as :