Here's the brief of the just announced international competition organized by MAS Studio and the Chicago Architectural Club.
Proposed by John S. Wright in 1849, the system was envisioned twenty years later when the State Legislature established the South, West, and Lincoln Park Commissions. Also referred as the “Emerald Necklace” since the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, it is composed by a series of streets and parks, some of them designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and William Le Baron Jenney. After the mid-twentieth century, the lack of proper funding, the split of management of the system as a whole (parks would be managed separately from the streets) and the migration of residents to the suburbs were some of the circumstances that accelerated the deterioration of the system. While portions of it, such as the Logan Square Boulevards District (an official city landmark district since 2005) still maintain the original character, other parts have just become underutilized areas and oversized streets that act as barriers within neighborhoods.
That is where we are now and this competition asks you to envision where we can be in the near future. These are some of the questions that we are asking ourselves and we want you to think about in your proposal: What if the system becomes a new transportation corridor in the city? What type of transportation would that be? What if the open space becomes an active layer and not just a passive one? What if this system provides activities that the city as a whole is lacking? What if the system becomes a tool for social cohesion? What if the system has a strong visual identity? What if it becomes an economic catalyst for the neighborhoods? What if the system is all of this and more?
Participants are asked to look at the urban scale and propose a framework for the entire boulevard system as well as provide answers and visualize the interventions at a smaller scale that can directly impact its potential users. Through images, diagrams and drawings we want to know what are those soft or hard, big or small, temporary or permanent interventions that can reactivate and reset the Boulevard System of Chicago.
Submission deadline is Monday, February 21, 2011.
Hopefully by predicting that we'll be seeing entries proposing the ubiquitous urban farm and alternative energy generating field, we won't actually be seeing too many of those.