Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's in the hole!

Stand at the foot of the Lake Shore Drive bridge, on the west side, heading south across the Chicago River. Look down, across Ogden slip, and you'll see a huge, flat, empty expanse of earth. At its center, a huge, perfectly round, orange-ribbed gaping beckons, daring you to imagine how far down the black abyss descends.

It's the stuff that dreams are made of, specifically, the dream of a twisting, 150 story Chicago Spire, by Santiago Calatrava, redefining the city's skyline. Not that long ago, the site was crawling with construction equipment and workers, but they've long since departed. Only the hole endures. And with lenders putting the screws to the developer behind the dream, it may be there a very long time, a mystic talisman, a riddle on the dynamics of urban life.

The Chicago Architectural Club has taken the bit between their teeth and made the hole the subject of their 2010 Chicago Prize Competition. Mine the Gap
a single-stage international design ideas competition dedicated to examining one of the most visible scars left after the collapse of the real estate market in Chicago . . . There is no set program for this competition; your definition of the program is part of the design problem. There is no requirement to replace the program intended to be accommodated in the original 150-story tower proposal . . . Although this project is located in a context where the tower is one of the dominant typologies, we are not necessarily looking for an investigation in this field . . . This competition is, in part, about looking for new ways to construct both the city and the programs within it. If real-estate speculation is no longer the driving force, what new techniques and actors can fill this space?
You can find full instructions for the competition and download materials here. First prize is $3,500, second $1,500 and third $750.00, with up to 3 Honorable Mentions awarded. Entries can be submitted from March 22nd to May 3rd. Registration is open now, with entry fees of $30 for CAC members, $50 for students, and $90.00 for professionals. The jury is scheduled to include Preston Scott Cohen (pending confirmation), Martin Felsen, Jeanne Gang, Robert Somol, CTBUH's Anthony Wood and - God save us - me.

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