Posted 19 months ago in Trending by Jessica Cabe
Summer might be a time of rest and relaxation for many Chicago Public Schools students, but the nine teenagers making up Chicago Architecture Center’s Teen Fellows program have chosen to spend their time analyzing the built environment in Chicago, solving problems and elevating existing spaces in the city.
As part of this program, Chicago Loop Alliance tasked these students with reimagining The Gateway, a formerly underutilized median that in 2013 was transformed into a popular gathering place for visitors, workers, residents and students. For the past five years, The Gateway on State Street between Wacker Drive and Lake Street has been a spot for anyone to eat lunch, socialize or simply sit quietly and comfortably in public space.
The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) Teen Fellows program, formerly Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), represents a select group of Chicago Public High School sophomores who’ve committed to spending two years exploring architecture, construction, engineering and design and questioning how the built environment applies to their lives. They attend regular meetings, experience weeklong and months-long immersions and land paid internships with architecture and design firms.
But Chicago Loop Alliance knew the space could be elevated, and the Chicago Architecture Center Teen Fellows spent one week conducting studies and building a model to share their vision.
Ideas the students came up with included incorporating native landscaping, including foliage that will attract Monarch butterflies; creating a map on the floor of The Gateway listing various major attractions in the Loop; adding creative lighting; providing a variety of seating to allow for socializing and eating as well as privacy; and engaging local artists to create mosaics on planters.
After the students gave their presentation and described the model they built, staff from CannonDesign and Chicago Loop Alliance, as well as members of the Loop Alliance Placemaking Committee, offered feedback and critiques that the students will take forward as they continue working on similar projects at other sites.
“There aren’t many other places on State Street where you can relax without having to buy something first, which makes the Gateway an important asset for the Loop,” said Kalindi Parikh, interim placemaking director for Chicago Loop Alliance. “However, it can be challenging to create a comfortable space in the middle of one of Chicago’s busiest roads. We hope to continue exploring strategies toward making The Gateway interesting and attractive for Loop residents and workers.”
Visit www.architecture.org for more information on the Chicago Architecture Center Teen Fellows Program.