This was a submission for the 2018 NOMA Competition. The site was located near Jackson Park in Chicago. It was a divided site, each on different sides of the commuter train tracks. The narrative is contained in the succeeding paragraphs.
Woodlawn, a surviving remnant of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, has developed and lost a cultural identity which brought life into an area that had been left to be forgotten. The surviving culture, or lack thereof, place Woodlawn in a position to establish a new identity for itself while remembering the cherished culture of its past. After studying the surrounding urban context, we found that Woodlawn already has most of the urban programmatic elements needed to sustain the residents. Therefore, we ask ourselves, how can culture be redefined through architecture?
By taking the rich history of Woodlawn and recognizing the economic and social opportunities that the Obama Presidential Center will bring to the area, the Proscenium hopes to create a responsive and creative platform for the community to express and enjoy their diverse cultures. Similar to a traditional Greek proscenium stage, which is comprised of layers of drapes, fabrics, and a backdrop, the layers of the Proscenium are designed for people to engage the site in different ways, utilizing Chicago as an audience and both Jackson Park and Lake Michigan as the groundrow and backdrop. It does not matter if you are a resident on the site, someone relaxing on the terrace, a worker getting on or off the train, nor a visitor drawn by a show, every person is participating.
The Proscenium will redefine the Woodlawn community as a new landmark by inviting tourists and local visitors. It will also bring permanent and semi-permanent residents, including working class citizens and both international and local artists, together so that the businesses and restaurants in Woodlawn will have a more diverse audience. With easy access from bus stations and bike parking from both streets, the site encourages people to walk, bike, and take public transportation to minimize vehicular traffic and therefore, reduce Chicago’s carbon footprint.
Form & Program:
The building on the east lot protrudes from the ground up to the rail platform in a terracing motion. This allows for an open public theater above and the Youth Arts Education Center below. The overhead steel structure acts as an entry threshold onto the site and a stage when there is an event. The terracing effect is designed to invite pedestrians from street level, create a visual connection between rail commuters and the education center, and provide a public space for social interactions or informal gatherings. All the while, enjoying a sweeping view out to the East overlooking the YMCA, Jackson Park, and Lake Michigan. During the summer months the public theater can be used for performances, while in the wintertime it can be be transformed into a sledding destination for Woodlawn’s youth.
The Youth Arts Education Center hosts a theater box office, classrooms (for painting, sketching, ceramics, etc.), performing arts studios, offices for a psychologist and director, spaces for community events, as well as a shared kitchen and accessible bathrooms.
The puncture in the west building acts as a visual extension of the terraced amphitheater. The first two levels are commercial spaces featuring a community art store with donated art supplies, a gallery space, and a grocery store, which would all have connections with the Youth Art Center and local community gardens. The idea is to make art affordable and approachable to the community and promote local artists and businesses.
The third and fourth floors house residential units, ranging from affordable housing, artists’ lofts, and market-rate housing. As a means to encourage educational and cultural exchange, artists who teach at the Youth Center are offered complimentary lodging. On the rooftop garden, residents can enjoy the views looking over all the activities on the site while still having a sense of privacy. As a response to cultural context and sustainable design decisions, locally sourced and highly-recyclable building materials such as stone and steel become the major material palette. To offset the carbon use within the site, urban-scaled wind turbines are installed on the rooftop garden to utilize the wind in “The Windy City.”