Burnham had envisioned Chicago’s lakefront as the city’s main public backbone: a new stage for a rapidly growing society that had gained wealth and status but also needed leisure-space in order to cope with the effects of a massively industrialized city. At this time Chicago was becoming one of the world‘s leading centres for steel milling until the second half of 20th century. Here, not only the steel for railroads and the car-industry, but also for many of Chicago’s iconic structures and skyscrapers, such as, Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall, the John Hancock Building, or the Sears Tower, had been produced. And however the large steel mills are gone today, we still feel the reverberations of this era in the city.
The relevance of a kiosk does not primarily lie in its design as a specific architectural object, but much more in its performance as an activator of its surrounding urban space. A kiosk as a neatly designed, but still singular architectural occurrence might thus be of little potential – especially if it is placed in a setting as grand and linear as Chicago’s Lakefront. We assume that the spatial sequencing along the lakefront, experienced by strolling, jogging or cycling inhabitants, should be answered by a similar sequencing of kiosks. In this sense this competition’s design task is not about a singular architectural object. It is much more about a series; a – prototypical – Model that can be translated into various instances in order to respond to specific places along the waterfront. As a kind of “family” those kiosks would – simply because of their recurring appearance along the water – foster the understanding of Chicago’s Lakefront as a continuous whole.
Kiosks originated during the 13th Century as Garden Pavilions mainly in the Ottoman Empire, Persia or the Indian subcontinent. Later, in Paris as in other European cities of the 19th century, they evolved to small commercial units, but – as gazebos, dance pavilions or bandstands – also performed as stages for the city’s society. As the commercial kiosks developed into elegant, yet, mainly closed boxes, the open pavilions were to be filled with the life of a city. Where the commercial kiosk draws a clear line between the inside and the outside, the seller and the public, the Gazebo celebrates the people at its very centre. And however different in appearance, both are places for gathering and interchange.
So, depending on setting and size the proposed kiosks will perform as a frame that can be equipped with several additional functions, whereby a commercial program would just be one possibility.
We have chosen to let the kiosk’s form and structure respond to some of Chicago’s “ingredients”: it, too, is derived from a modular grid, transformed into a diagonal net (see Burnham’s translation of Hausmann’s network of boulevard in Paris) – and, even in its modest height, shows an urge for verticality and expression. In any variation, be it small (2×2 units = ~200 sqft) or larger (3×3 …or even bigger), the kiosk will show a careful balancing of expressively shaped components and comparably intimate spaces.
As a response to not only the kiosk’s inherent structural and formal setting but also to the city’s steel history we have chosen steel-sheets as the main material for the construction of the kiosk. The proposed doubly-curved and folded steel-vaults are used to provide shelter and offer a slender vandalism-proof frame for other structures, such as a bar, shops, etc. to be integrated. These integrated structures can be replaced due to need and, when removed, leave the kiosks as stages to the people. The proposed series of steel-vaults has been parametrically varied and then translated into a limited catalogue of elements that balances manufacturing and cost.
We assume that either some of the remaining minimills but also large companies such as ArcelorMittal might be interested to get involved into a new family of stages for the city’s society that continue Burnham’s vision for the Lakefront.