The Interchange

Chicago, IL, 2003

The program for the 2003 Chicago Prize, titled The Chicago Portal Project, called for a new 1000-car parking garage to work in conjunction with the new Central Area Plan, a masterplan for the Loop, Chicago’s central business district, and the adjacent neighborhoods. The Plan was released in 1997 by the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Located on a city block immediately east of the Kennedy Expressway and directly west of Chicago’s central business district, the site for the project sits between a burgeoning retail/nightlife and residential district to the west and a proposed high-density expansion of the Loop to the east. The 2003 Chicago Prize competition was seen as an opportunity to inject fresh vision into the issue of vehicular traffic and parking.

The intermodal solution, titled The Interchange, serves as a gateway between these two urban conditions of vehicular traffic and parking. It is an urban building that frames views of the city as the commuter travels north or south by automobile; provides open space in a highly dense area of the city; addresses the street by placing retail along the major axis and shifts 1,200 parking spaces below and above ground to allow for green space at street level. It provides a critical link between neighborhoods east and west.

The Interchange is first and foremost a connector, serving as a hub for the various methods of transportation people use in the urban commute. It allows for the easy shift between various forms of transportation and delights in the chaotic energy of the urban environment. It is a series of contiguous and intertwining layers elevated above the Kennedy Expressway to allow the juxtaposition of the paths, speeds, and activities of the automobile, the bus, the bicycle, and the pedestrian/runner. The elevated plane of open green space is part of a larger landscape that is perforated and hovers over the Expressway.

The perforated park layer allows trees to grow through from the Expressway and reveals glimpses of the parking and Expressway below. The idea of a transformed urban infrastructure inserted into the landscape of Chicago’s business district is more than a parking garage with a green roof: it is a connector between the daily commute and the urban vitality of the city.

Status: Unbuilt