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Design on the Edge
West Loop, Chicago

The United Center complex occupies a site that has for a hundred years been devoted to collective spectacle and entertainment. The Chicago Stadium—called “the Madhouse on Madison” because of its noisy fans and loud pipe organ—was built in 1929, and housed the Blackhawks, the Bulls, and many boxing matches. When it was built, the stadium was the largest indoor arena in the world. The United Center, which replaced the Chicago Stadium in 1994, hosts the same teams as well as large scale music concerts. At the time of construction the site was expanded to include more suburban-style surface parking by bulldozing 24 acres of surrounding neighborhood. This has had a deleterious effect on the neighborhood. The lack of a defined edge to the United Center site has contributed to a gradual erosion of building stock, and therefore density, in the surrounding neighborhood.

We propose to create a “growth boundary” to delineate the low density parking zone from the neighborhood—to allow the neighborhood to more re-establish its “natural,” higher density, while containing the parking. Within the boundary we propose to add a new (often temporary and seasonal) programmed surface of cultural activities and collective events to extend the possibilities of spectacle to the exterior of the United Center, as well as provide open (sometimes) green space to the neighborhood. During the off-season, the surface is programmed with temporary programs, events and surfaces.

Our growth boundary is more than a conceptual line—it is a building. We use the predominant building type of the surrounding neighborhood, the Chicago 3-Flat, and stack it 3 high to create a new programmatic anchor for the neighborhood.

Phase: Ongoing