Many of the designs on display at the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial could be implemented anywhere. But the event’s creative team was thinking of the Windy City, specifically, when it organized BOLD: Alternative Scenarios For Chicago, a collection of radical, Chicago-centric proposals from more than a dozen local offices.
The show-within-a-show was organized by Iker Gil, director of local firm MAS Studio. Like most speculative work, the plans require some willing suspension of disbelief in terms of their scope and implementation. But most contain smart suggestions for a metropolis whose basic infrastructures have been in place for well over a century.
“They are looking at the future, but they are still very grounded in the realities of the city,” said Gil, who also serves as editor-in-chief of the design quarterly MAS Context. “We want to make people think about how new ideas like these could be implemented.”
The variety of designers—from emerging to world-famous—and approaches—from region-altering master plans to offbeat architectural innovations—gives the series what Gil calls a “comprehensive view” of the city, and “the role of architects at all scales.”
“They don’t just do houses,” he says.
Some proposals take a singular approach, suggesting grand urban transformations. UrbanLab’s Filter Island imagines bioswales, wetlands, and other natural filters for the Chicago River’s pollutants as elements in a vast and colorful public park. Port Urbanism’s The Big Shift proposes moving Lake Shore Drive—currently a barrier past which development is prohibited—eastward, and, through landfill and road tunneling, clearing the way for a new skyline and 150-acre public waterfront.[…]