In response to this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial prompting Make New History, the 2017 Burnham Prize Competition: Under the Dome uses the historical and typological construct of the dome and calls for its critical re-imagination. This year the Chicago Cultural Center will perform as the main venue for the second edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Center—formerly a Public Library– was designed by Shepley Rutan and Coolidge in 1897.

Inside the building, the acclaimed Tiffany Dome was recently restored and brings in millions of visitors a year to not only admire the beautiful structure, but also participate in the many programs held under the dome. In contrast to the Tiffany dome, less than 10 miles away stands the decaying dome of St. Stephen’s Church St. Stephen’s Church, designed by the successor firm of Coolidge & Hodgdon. This year marks the centennial anniversary of the church’s domed cathedral. After its first 80 years serving as the Tenth Church of Christ Scientist and then as St. Stephen’s Church, the building and it’s dome have been abandoned for the last twenty years.

This year’s Burnham Prize competition questions whether St. Stephen’s dome can offer a new history by creatively re-thinking the dome’s contemporaneous state of ruin and dis-use. The decaying dome of St. Stephen’s Church is taken as an opportunity to revisit more broadly the dome’s place in contemporary society and fable its future history.

The CAC is calling for speculative proposals and architectural interventions that re-charge the significance and relevance of the dome. Would new strategies of programming or tectonic experimentation provide a new future for the dome? How can the collision of history and new use create the radical emergence of the unimaginable?

The competition is open to architects, designers, artists, and students.

  • Reduced Entry Fee for students: $35.00.
  • Winners and selected entries displayed at the Chicago Cultural Center during the Biennial
  • Downloadable 3D model of the Dome, available on the CAC website
  • Confirmed jury members: Penelope Dean, associate professor at UIC’s School of Architecture; Sarah Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation; Sharon Johnston, FAIA, Founder of Johnston Marklee; and Brian Lee, FAIA, Design Partner at SOM Chicago.


Additional information including entry information and a complete set of rules can be found at www.chicagoarchitecturalclub.org.