Soft in the Middle by Atelier 2B winner of Competition ChiDesign Center

Soft in the Middle

Soft in the Middle
Image © Atelier 2B

Chicago has long been known as the birthplace of the skyscraper. Since his arrival in Chicago in 1937, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe became the leading figure in the Second Chicago School, the City which would become his architectural playground. The clarity and ethos of his work harmonized with the city’s architectural past and trajectory.

Soft in the Middle
Image © Atelier 2B

As contemporary space and the public realm become increasingly fluid, we propose the radical re-arrangement of these elements that have so defined the figure-ground of chicago’s downtown. We propose the typical hard, consolidated core to be replaced with a soft one: an extension of the plinth where the core no longer resists the continuous plane of the city, but rather inhales public activity, bringing a new life to Mies dissolved public boundary which before only appeared in plan.

Soft in the Middle
Image © Atelier 2B

The Marble clad cores that defined Mies’ iconic works defined weak sectional relationships between floors. The Collaborative core is the logical extension of Mies’ “universal space” which was never fully resolved in his towers or in his beloved playground (Chicago).

Soft in the Middle
Image © Atelier 2B

Program Concept
The building is built up of three major volumes: The lower volume houses the headquarters of the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) and Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH); the middle volume houses the Out-of-School-Time Youth Program; and the top volume houses the Design and Allied Arts High School.

Soft in the Middle
Image © Atelier 2B

Within these volumes, spaces with specific requirements such as offices, workspaces, studios and classrooms are situated in the perimeter of the building. All the public spaces, including the exhibition hall, the Chicago City model, informal meeting areas, libraries, cafes, gymnasium, performance spaces and presentation zones are situated within the “Collaborative Core” and can be shared among organizations.

Soft in the Middle
Axonometry

The system of program distribution allows for the autonomy and individual identity of each organization, yet at the same time, instigating encounters and exchange of ideas between users. Furthermore, this also allows for flexibility in building operation, where different sections of the building could be open or closed to the public at different times. Source by Atelier 2B.

Soft in the Middle
Concepy Diagram

Location: Chicago, USA
Design: Atelier 2B
Project Team: Yewon Ji, Nicolas Lee, Ryan Otterson
Competition: ChiDesign Center for Architecture, Design and Education
Organizer: Chicago Architecture Foundation
Status: Winner
Images: Courtesy of Atelier 2B

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