In 2003, the Chicago Central Area Plan endorsed an idea for a new subway under Clinton Street that would be a corrupt politician's wet dream and commuters' nightmare. Passengers would be buried up to four levels below the street in a project whose ultimate cost would likely make the $300 million squandered in the mothballed "superstation" under Block 37 look like penny candy. Most recently, it's been proposed to divert $58 million from the city's TIF slush funds to subsidize an ill-conceived project to add 18 floors to the existing station with over a half a million square feet space of office space in narrow floorplates.
Oh, and did we mention that the first idea to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago was a competition for the design of a statue?
Fortunately, the Chicago Architectural Club has taken a different tack and made the revitalization of Union Station the subject of their 2008 Burnham Competition. Union Station 2020 is part of Burnham 2.0: A Patchwork Plan for the High-Speed Rail City, created in partnership with the Chicago Humanities Festival and Chicago History Museum, where the work of the entrants to the competition will be exhibited beginning November 8th.
The competition comes at a propitious time when, in the face of airlines falling over themselves in an apparent race to slash their operating costs by driving away excess passengers with an increasingly debased customer experience, inter-city rail travel is growing explosively, with many Amtrak routes now bursting at the seams. Union Station 2020 solicits:
. . . innovative solutions for the transformation of Union Station into a center of high speed rail traffic and related programs. It is not simply a question of designing an efficient and functional transit hub. How can this intermodal node become more than a mere knot of infrastructure? What role can this project play in the reconfiguration of Chicago’s West Loop and of the city and region? How can an existing landmark building be transformed to accommodate and generate a new combination of activities while welcoming an unprecedented level of rail traffic? What can Union Station be in the era of High-Speed Rail?The competition brief proposes shunting those inconvenient suburban commuters somewhere else and turning more of Union Station's tracks over to Amtrak. You even get to propose tearing down 222 South Riverside without having to replace the office space. (Ah, poetic justice.)
The competition jury will include Stan Allen, Dean of the Princeton University of School of Architecture, Chicago architects Doug Garofalo and Zoka Zola, Geoff Manaugh, editor of Dwell Magazine, and the ubiquitous Bruce Mau. A blog has been set up through which you can submit questions through September 15th. Online submission of entries opens October 10 and closes October 15th. Winners, including a $10,000 first prize, $3,000 second, $1,500 third and up to three honorable mentions, will be announced November 8th.
You can download the competition brief, as well as drawings, photos and other information, here.