special projects

Air Force Village chapel competition, San Antonio, Texas

These are images of our submission to the Air Force Village Chapel design competition in San Antonio, Texas.  The challenge was to design a multi-faith chapel for a community of retired Air Force officers and their families.  Attached to the existing Health Center, our design consisted of two interlocking parabolic barrel vaults formed from standard pre-formed steel panels (similar to quonset huts).

The entry was made up of a large, open-air porch raised on a plinth that looked out onto a new courtyard formed by the chapel and the existing Health Center and Town Center buildings.  The chapel was the third component of the community’s desire to provide for the social, physical and spiritual needs of the residents.  The main nave of the chapel is located in the larger vault with the smaller intersecting creating an ambulatory space and side chapels.  A lower, flat roofed narthex extends back the Health Center and houses the administrative offices off to one side.  A separate, smaller portion of the building comes off the northeast corner and contains the sacristy.

Highland Farmer’s Market competition, Denver, Colorado

This is our submittal to a design competition for a year-round farmer's market in the Highlands neighborhood of  Denver, Colorado.  Sponsored by Sprocket Design/Build, the task was to design a flexible farmer’s market for a narrow, urban site in the Highlands neighborhood, west of downtown.  Rather than limit the site to a seasonal market, we proposed a porous building that can house the market, but also be available year-round for art classes and community events.

With the generous graphic design and branding contribution of Susan Everett, our project became The Highlands Hub and included a ground level open market hall with retractable garage doors, a pair of toilet rooms, elevator office and a large, open community events room.

Nelson Algren fountain, Chicago, Illinois

The project is to design and construct a temporary winter cover for the fountain and basin at the intersection of Ashland, Milwaukee and Division streets in Chicago.  This fountain, named in honor of Chicago writer Nelson Algren, has sat with a deteriorating and unceremonious plywood cover for many years. Our proposal here is to create a design that would be in the spirit of Algren’s gritty and realistic portraits of the immigrants, bartenders and hustlers of his northeast Chicago neighborhood – Wicker Park and Bucktown.  We are proposing to construct a series of steel frames that can be mounted around the fountain basin and faced with portraits of the people of the neighborhood.  Each year a day of photos will occur allowing anyone to participate and adding themselves to the fountain cover.  Over time, the design will reflect the current and changing nature of the neighborhood and will champion the everyday working people of the city.

Mine the Gap

In 2010 the Chicago Architectural Club held their semi-annual Chicago Prize Competition.  Entitled "Mine the Gap", the site of the competition was the gigantic excavated foundation for the failed Chicago Spire project located on Lake Shore Drive directly adjacent to Lake Michigan.  The competition asks for submissions that envisaged a new use for the site and a not-too-subtle critique of the real estate developer/speculator process for making cities.

I lived in Chicago after grad school and I have an abiding love and appreciation for the place and its architecture.  I also quite enjoy taking part in competitions when the time allows and if the project is sufficiently compelling.  So when this came around I thought I would throw my hat in the ring. And then life and work intervened, diverting any excess time and energy from competitions and almost all other activities.  Then deadline for submission came and went and I had no more than some thoughts and notions about the site and the emotionally-loaded content.  It was afterall a competition that placed failure at its core in the middle of the worst building environment in my lifetime.

However, even if the deadline had passed and winners announced, I kept thinking of the huge hole in the ground surrounded by a thriving city.  And as often happens to us architects, notions and thoughts turn into drawings and models and project comes forth.

The project is really just a huge timepiece, a Foucault pendulum slowly ticking off the days and weeks and years and decades.  It tells time by standing still as the earth is moving.  Somehow this seemed an appropriate comment, if not a bit post-apocalyptic, on the construction of cities and the cycle of time.

I think it is of some amusing irony that I made a project for a competition that was over,  a building without a client, for a site without a building.