Beyond the Studio

Second year graduate students gather information for their semester projects on a field trip through Downtown Chicago.

My window out to the city.

This semester, I scored one of the best desks in studio, because it has this view.  All day long, I get to look at the bottom half of the Sears Tower (Willis, if you must).  But thanks to our studio subject matter, we’ve been given reason to get out beyond the walls of the A & A building and see the city.

In the process of researching our studio site, many of us got out to the former building site of the  Chicago Spire.  An in-depth study of the area’s topography, economics, real estate, etc. gave us an understanding of the area which may (or may not) inform each of our Convention Center/Mixed use building designs throughout the semester.  The culmination of a week and half’s research gave us a good excuse to explore the city and gain a real-life-size sense of our semester project.

A few Fridays ago, we all turned in our permission slips and took off on a field trip toward the site and beyond.  I’ve lived in Chicago for almost 8 years, and that day I did many things in the city that I’ve never done before.  We took a ride on a Chicago water taxi, during which one research team made a presentation, which was scarcely paid attention to, because we were all distracted by the architecture and perfect weather surrounding us.

my studio pal Brett soaking up some sun on the water taxi

Marina City, the IBM building, and Trump Tower, as seen from the river

We went to the top of Marina City, the perfect setting for another presentation or two, and we all decided that our studio reviews should be done 600 feet in the air.


The view east from the roof of Marina City. Note the scallops in the foreground

The view west from Marina City. It was a bright, sunny day, giving this photo a bit of a sepia tone.

After checking out our building site, we also took a Metra train (another first for me) down to McCormick Place, where they were just finishing up one of the biggest conventions of the year.  We took in the vastness of those buildings, more than twice the size of our projects for the semester (which will come in at one million square feet).  It was an exhausting and exhilarating field trip, and it was a good ending for our introductory research project.

A week later, for our tech class led by Dan Wheeler, we were in for another treat.  Because we are learning about multi-use buildings, Dan got us in for a class tour of the Hancock Center, led by Tom, the building’s Executive Director, and Joe, the Chief Building Engineer (arrangements were made by Bob Wislow, of US Equities).  We entered through the bowels of the building, if you will, the loading dock, and slowly rose through the 16th floor (where all  ventilation systems are housed), with a stop at the 44th floor (the condominium sky lobby, complete with a grocery store having a view that no grocery store should ever have), and up to the roof.  We spent a good 15 minutes 1,127 feet above the ground, and again had perfect weather for the views.

The view from the roof of Hancock Center. Photo courtesy of Michael Kendall and his recent iPhone update

It was really nice to have an opportunity together with my classmates to be out amongst the architecture that we want to be a part of, and take a step away from the nitty gritty of studio work.  When I decided to go to UIC, I was glad to be staying in Chicago, and having new opportunities like these through school has been a huge perk and a great way to start the semester.

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