Which is one of the many ideas you can submit to the Chicago Architectural Club's annual Burnham Prize Competition.
This year's competition, McCormick Place REDUX, is “intended to examine the controversial origins and questionable future of the McCormick Place East Building, the 1971 modernist convention hall designed by Gene Summers of C.F. Murphy Associates and sited along the lakefront in Burnham Park.”
Built on parkland meant to be “forever open, clear, and free”, considered an eyesore by open space advocates, and suffering from benign neglect at the hands of its owners, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, Gene Summer’s design for McCormick Place East is nevertheless a powerfully elegant exploration of some of modernism’s deepest concerns. The current building’s predecessor generated withering criticism from civic groups so when it burned in 1967 its critics mobilized. The raw economic power of the convention business served to hasten rebuilding atop the ruins. But while Shaw’s previous building lacked any architectural merit, Gene Summers brought to the new project his years of experience at Mies van der Rohe’s side. The resulting building is a tour de force that succinctly caps the modernist dream of vast heroic column-free interior spaces.
The “McCormick Place REDUX” competition seeks to launch a debate about the future of this significant piece of architecture, this lakefront site that was effectively removed from the public realm, and the powerful pull of a collective and public claim on the lakefront. This iconic building is caught in the crossfire of a strong, principled, and stirring debate. So the question posed by the competition is quite simple: what would you do with this massive facility? What alternate role might the building play in Chicago should it be decommissioned as a convention hall? And if the building were to go away, how might the site be utilized? What might you do with a million square feet of space on Chicago’s lakefront (along with 4,200 seat Arie Crown theatre)?
Will you, as Chicago Tribune's architecture critic Blair Kamin suggested, propose to tear the entire building down and restitch the lakefront's splintered parkland?
Despite one of its member's aversion to ideas competitions, it would be awesome to see an entry from the FAT gang.
You have until 4 April 2011 to send in your proposals.
(Im)possible Chicago #6