Material that Connects: A Campus Center in Chicago

The divide in the field of architecture between the socially focused and the formally explorative grows wider. Why are these two vital aspects of design seen as mutually exclusive in practice and in studios? Additionally, there has not been enough attention given to materiality as deeply philosophical, inherently social and political, and formally generative territory for architectural exploration. The lens of material provides a potential connector between these poles—the social and the formal—at numerous scales.

This studio will explore this potential by using material as a means of engaging a particular site, campus center program, and multifaceted constituency in Chicago. This city’s enormous growth and transformation in the 19th century was highly dependent on both nature and material, and its intertwined ecological-industrial history is a precursor to the environmental and social challenges that Chicago and cities like it face in the 21st century. The research portion of the studio is aimed at unpacking this history and engaging it with a current community that is working toward regeneration.

Studio participants will progress their research by choosing and working through a specific building material—examining its economic flows, physical capacities, and cultural properties, and how these understandings can generate architecture that resonates with habitation and use. As part of their final projects, participants will propose contemporary methods of making, assembly, and craft that resume control and expand the possibilities of this disputed territory for the design field.

Requirements: We will meet for two days every other week for design sessions, seminars, and critiques that will be mixed with several guest talks. Part of the studio will involve learning how to propose and engage potential users of the campus center program. A trip to Chicago for a site visit, dialogues, and pin-up at the Studio Gang office is planned. Design quality is the main criteria for evaluation along with engaged participation.

This course has an irregular meeting schedule.

Jeanne Gang and Claire Cahan will be in residence on January 19, 20, and 31, February 1, 21, and 22, March 7, 8, 21, 22, 28, and 29, April 11 and 12, and May 1, 2, and 3. The studio trip will take place February 14 – 15.