Chicago Architecture Center

Finalist 2019

After 50 years, the CAC had matured into a leading Chicago cultural organization—but the only one without a home. Their new home needed a gateway for Chicagoans and visitors to explore Chicago’s architectural masterpieces while revealing the importance of design and urban planning in Chicago and in cities across the country and around the world.

The design team harnessed the scale of the 36-foot-high lobby windows and prime Wacker Drive location to capture the interest of passersby. The bold font, inspired by AFT Railroad Gothic, reflects the staccato skyline of the city. A restrained color palette, using CAC’s iconic red, provides an energized counterpoint to the white dimensional models in the foreground.

The interpretive strategy explains Chicago’s role as a seedbed for architectural and engineering innovations, the birthplace of skyscraper architecture and features Chicago architects who’ve had a global impact on skyscraper design. To illustrate skyscrapers’ relevance and impact on our culture, exhibits are arranged in four thematic islands—live, work, build, imagine—that balance interpretive graphics and building models to show how skyscrapers have impacted the way we live.

In the lobby, a lobby floor graphic map acts as an orientation device. From there, visitors enter the Chicago Gallery, where a vivid eight-minute film and synched projection mapping tell the story of how Chicago architecture evolved and the historical events that shaped it. As specific areas come to life on screen, the model lights up to show which neighborhoods and points of interest match the film’s narrative.

Design Firms: 

Gallagher & Associates

Client: 

Chicago Architecture Center

Open Date: 

August 2018

Project Budget: 

$2,700,000

Photo Credits: 

James Steinkamp, CAC (photography)

Design Team: 

Cybelle Jones (principal in charge), Jamie Rains (exhibit design lead), Christian Cabrera (graphic design lead), Jessica Lautin (content development lead),  Michael R. Lewis (project manager), Liz Ponzio (project coordinator), Xiaotian Yang (exhibit designer, renderings), Duo Xu (exhibit designer)

Consultants: 

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (architecture), Four Zero One (interactive kiosks), Studio Blue (wayfinding signage), Leviathan (projection studies), Lightswitch (lighting design)

Fabricators: 

Ravenswood Studio, Inc (exhibit fabrication); Model Options, Columbian Model & Exhibit Works (models); Creative Technology (AV Integration)

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