For nearly three decades, the New City YMCA on the north side of Chicago brought together residents from the affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood to the north and the CabriniGreen public housing complex to the south. Membership declined in the late 1990s as the city began demolishing CabriniGreen, however, and the YMCA sold the site to developers. A new, one million square foot mixed-use development went up in its place.
Dubbed NEWCITY, the three building complex consists of a highrise residential tower and extensive retail and commercial office space. Media Objectives was brought in to design a public installation that would both enliven the highrise building’s groundfloor pedestrian throughway, which connects the street to the courtyard, and preserve the site’s heritage by celebrating the spirit of the former YMCA.
Designed in 1981, the YMCA had featured a brightly colored glazed brick façade. To reconstruct and embody the vibrancy and connection that the building represented, the Media Objectives team created an installation made of three structures, each constructed of glazed bricks salvaged from the original YMCA. The bricks were restacked to form three wall segments, each raised above the floor within raw steel frames that express the rise of a community.
Each side of the installation represents a defining aspect of the former YMCA. The front of each of the three segments references the original building’s façade, while the back of each segment features a mosaic of the different colored bricks, symbolizing the YMCA’s role in bringing “two worlds” together—a grounding concept behind the architecture of the original building.
Complementing the structure is an expansive wall treatment on the side of the pedestrian throughway featuring a modern typographic pattern of words and phrases, chosen to express what the YMCA meant to the community. Examples include “safe haven,” “rejuvenation,” “inclusivity” and “a shared memory.” The typography chosen by Media Objectives reflects the contemporary design of the mixed-use development. An information panel behind the structures tells the full story of the YMCA. Together, the structure and wall treatment celebrate diversity and community.