Gallagher & Associates Build it Tall at the Chicago Architecture Center

Gallagher & Associates Build it Tall at the Chicago Architecture Center

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Recently, Gallagher & Associates worked hand-in-hand with the Chicago Architecture Center to develop a world-class destination and gateway for tourists, architecture-enthusiasts, practitioners and students to discover the marvel that is Chicago’s architectural landscape and legacy. In less than nine months from project launch to open, G&A worked closely with the CAC to interpret Chicago’s architectural legacy into a visitor experience that is both awe-inspiring and accessible.

“The experience we designed illustrates how architecture becomes the urban canvas for daily life, providing a new lens for audiences to explore the city and its unique architectural fabric,” says Cybelle Jones, principal & executive director, Gallagher & Associates. To tell the story of Chicago architecture, they divided the experience into two primary galleries. The downstairs “Chicago” gallery tells the story of how Chicago came to be the "city of architecture," while the upstairs “Building Tall” gallery studies the evolution and innovation of skyscraper design and technology through the lens of Chicago’s famous architects and their influence on buildings throughout the world.

“We were challenged to create a powerful exhibit that matched not only the scale of the Mies van Der Rohe lobby but also the imposing Chicago skyline outside,” recounts Jamie Rains, Senior Exhibit Designer. Large-scale models of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers were expertly arranged within viewing distance of the windows—thus, adding visual interest from across the street as well as inside. Using a consistent scale allowed visitors to gain perspective. “Being able to compare the first skyscraper at a little more than 1 foot, to the future tallest at more than 36 feet, evokes a visceral reaction that we couldn’t achieve otherwise,” notes Christian Cabrera, senior graphic designer.

To illustrate skyscrapers’ impact on society and culture, G&A arranged the exhibits programmatically into four, flexible islands that can move around to make space for events or changing content. The islands—LIVE, BUILD, WORK, IMAGINE—balance building models with interpretive graphics, to tell the story of how skyscraper building design transformed the way we live today. G&A also developed a vivid 8-minute video to welcome visitors and add context and history to Chicago’s architectural landscape. 

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