‘Soft in the Middle’ presents a unique concept for CADE (Centre for Architecture, Design and Education) and CTBUH (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat) headquarters. Being one of the winning entries of ChiDesign  competition (organised by Chicago Architecture Foundation) , this proposal by Atelier 2B (Yewon Ji, Nicolas Lee and Ryan Otterson) proposes a facility with flexible and collaborative core.

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

The competition jury comprised of Stanley Tigerman, David Adjaye, Monica Ponce de Leon, Billie Tsien and Ned Cramer. The brief for CADE called for a design that envisages a campus offering a conducive learning environment and the architecture to embody the essence of Chicago and its architectural significance.

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

Based on the brief, this entry focuses on three main aspects of the Miesian philosophy: the plane of the city (the plinth), dissolution of the footprint (glass divisions) and vertical movement (consolidated circulation core).

“We propose the typical hard, consolidated core to be replaced with a soft one: an extension of the plinth where the core no longer resists the continuous plane of the city, but rather inhales public activity, bringing a new life to Mies’s dissolved public boundary which before, only appeared in plan. The Collaborative core is the logical extension of Mies’ “universal space” which was never fully resolved in his towers or in his beloved playground (Chicago).” – Nicolas Lee, Atelier B2.

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

The conceptual design renders depict a multi-storey volume, vertically subdivided into two functions; a soft core and a conventional perimeter. Almost 22 storeys tall, the structure is zoned into three sections. Every section is followed by a double height void which allows provision for interactive areas. The base of the structure is shown to host CAF exhibitions. Whereas the other sections accommodate the CAF and CTBUH headquarters, youth centre and the design and applied arts high school. The middle portion contains most of the learning and interactive spaces such as offices, workspaces, studios, and classrooms, arranged around the continuous public core.

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

Talking about the core specifically, the design shows the inclusion of an exhibition hall, library, theater, performance areas, gymnasium, cafés, informal meeting areas and presentation spaces. Thus the entire design culminates into the integration of core. The strategic segregation of activities and distinct zones allows each component to function optimally and independently. Though, it also provides opportunity to each component to easily commingle with the core and thus participate in the exchange of ideas and learning.

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

Courtesy of Atelier 2B

This design, through simple diagrams, explains how a ‘minimalist’ notion can be literally transferred and applied to an architectural arrangement.

By: Khushboo Vyas

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