Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Will new faces deliver landmarks?

Posted by Will it stand? at 8:20 AM
Early in 2009, Chicago’s architecture community was a buzz about the opportunity to design spaces for the 2016 Olympics. They looked to showcase the city’s rich architectural history and implement new modern forms being explored by a new generation of architects. Adina Balasu was one such enterprising designer completing her graduate degree. As part of her studies, she devised a landmark bridge to allow pedestrians access Olympic venues on Northerly Island, just across the marina from Soldier Field.

Night View
The concept, christened Chameleon, was to create a functional bridge that would be a destination in itself. Two levels of walkway would be suspended within a futuristic space frame shell. The large interior space might also be used as a multi-purpose venue for entertainment, retail and relaxation. After the Olympics left, the structure would be a necessary link to further the planned development of the little-used island park. An inspirational form and engineering feat, visitors would make a visit to the Chameleon part of their itinerary, expanding the traditional Chicago tourist district several blocks south.

I was introduced to the project at a meeting of the AIA Young Architects Forum. Following Ms. Balasu’s presentation, we had the opportunity to discuss the details of the project. I was intrigued by the structural challenge and impressed with her desire to express the structural form in the bridge’s appearance to reflect the technology of the times.

I delayed in my review for several months before picking up the concept with a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, in that time, Chicago was passed over for the Olympic bid. Despite this missed opportunity, I started wondering who deliver the trend-setting designs of the future. The current recession seems to have stalled several major projects, and missing out on the Olympics further deflated the local architecture community. When the economy turns around again, who will be at the forefront. I suspect that many of the innovative architects that I met at the YAF will lead the charge.

Outdoor Show
The Chameleon appeals to me as one of those great next-generation architectural concepts. Over the next few blogs I will outline my thought process and presents some potential strategies for making the Chameleon stand.

What do you think, when will we escape the current economic downturn? Will their be a new generation of architects leading the way at that time? Where should enterprising structural engineers look to network with these future partners? Please comment below.
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