Chicago Architecture Foundation presents “Unseen City”

Young designers envision a future Chicago.

 (Photograph: Peter Coombs)
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Photograph: Peter CoombsNina O'Keefe and Aunt Julie in Sideshow Theatre Company's Heddatronat Steppenwolf's Garage Rep
 (Photograph: Peter Coombs)
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Photograph: Peter CoombsNate Whelden, Andy Luther and Matt Fletcher in Sideshow Theatre Company's Heddatron at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep 2011
 (Photograph: Peter Coombs)
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Photograph: Peter CoombsRobert Koon, Jennifer Shine and Brian Grey in Sideshow Theatre Company's Heddatron at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep
 (Photograph: Peter Coombs)
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Photograph: Peter CoombsDru Smith in UrbanTheater Company's Sonnets for an Old Centuryat Steppenwolf's Garage Rep
 (Photograph: Peter Coombs)
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Photograph: Peter CoombsGino Marconi in UrbanTheater Company's Sonnets for an Old Century at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep
 (Photograph: Peter Coombs)
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Photograph: Peter CoombsRashaad Hall in UrbanTheater Company's Sonnets for an Old Century at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep
 (Photograph: Tyler Core)
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Photograph: Tyler CoreStuart Ritter, Matt Holzfeind and Scott Cupper in Strange Tree Group's The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep
 (Photograph: Tyler Core)
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Photograph: Tyler CoreKate Nawrocki in Strange Tree Group's The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep
 (Photograph: Tyler Core)
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Photograph: Tyler CoreStuart Ritter, Matt Holzfeind, Scott Cupper, and Delia Baseman in Strange Tree Group'sThe Three Faces of Dr. Crippenat Steppenwolf's Garage Rep

This year marks the third anniversary of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s unveiling of Chicago Model City, the monumental 320-square-foot scale model of downtown Chicago. To take advantage of the model’s full potential, Kate Keleman says she and fellow CAF curator Greg Dreicer are “making it more participatory” to engage the public in urban-design issues. The exhibition “Unseen City: Designs for a Future Chicago,” open now through November 4, inserts visionary but technically feasible architectural projects into Model City. These projects—designed by architecture students from IIT, UIC and Archeworks—tackle perennial environmental and social issues (like water pollution, carbon emissions, suburban relocation and food deserts) and present novel ways in which design solutions can enhance city living. Here’s a sample of the exhibition’s futuristic designs:

Visionary Chicago: Proposals of the past

“Unseen City” includes Visionary Chicago, a video featuring utopian proposals from Chicago’s past. Developed by professor Alexander Eisenschmidt and students at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the video inspired seven scale models that hover over Model City, including Adolf Loos’s Tribune Tower (1922), Mies van der Rohe’s Convention Center (1954) and Stanley Tigerman’s Instant City (pictured, 1966). Eisenschmidt calls this collection of unbuilt projects a kind of “phantom city, a look at what Chicago could have been.”

CO2ngress Gateway Towers: Purifying downtown’s air

According to Keleman, 77,000 vehicles pass over the Congress Parkway interchange each day—pumping an enormous amount of carbon dioxide into the air. The CO2ngress Gateway Towers would function not only as a visual gateway for motorists entering the Loop off the Eisenhower, but also as a giant air filter. Equipped with “carbon scrubbers,” the towers would funnel CO2 to algae farms inside the building. There, algae would consume the CO2 and create biofuel for (ecofriendly) cars.

Designers: Danny Mui and Benjamin Sahagun

The Clean Tower: Engaging the river

Before the founding of the city, the Chicago River was a slow-moving stream that passed through wetlands on its way to Lake Michigan. As the city grew, the marshes were drained, and the river became smelly and polluted. Clean Tower would restore the wetlands along riverbanks and on roofs and terraces. Keleman calls the building a “living machine” that would filter its wastewater through human-made marshes—including one on the roof of the adjacent Merchandise Mart.

Designers: Kyle Bigart and Peter Binggeser

Plymouth Tower: Building family-friendly high-rises

How can the city keep young families from moving to the ’burbs? It could start by building family-friendly residential high-rises containing vertical neighborhoods. Incorporating schools, day care, retail and a transportation hub, Plymouth Tower would build communities within the urban center. Family-sized residences would open onto two- and three-story semi-outdoor atriums containing gardens and communal play spaces. Keleman says these atriums would transform traditional corridors into “residential streets in the sky” enhancing livability for families.

Designers: Christopher Reddy and Matthew Byrne

SkyFarm: Growing food in the city

There’s a monetary cost in transporting food from farms into the city—and an even greater environmental cost, in the form of carbon emissions, in shipping food long-distance from places like California or Chile. SkyFarm would employ large-scale, hydroponic, vertical farming throughout this residential tower to grow food for local consumption. Keleman says multistory openings penetrating the building would bring cross-ventilation and natural daylight into large central spaces used for commercial farming.

Designers: Andrew Lui and Nicandro Sanchez

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