Urban Activators being offered Fall semester

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Urban Activators IPRO Poster.indd

Building on the success of past Urban Activator IPROs, students will work with local community organizations and stakeholders to develop, design and build a system that engages the local community in the act of recording and celebrating their stories and shared history.Students will create/develop a portable prototype for documenting

Students will create/develop a portable prototype for documenting and sharing stories — visual, oral, or otherwise — from the neighborhoods. This model will be priced and designed as a replicable system. Students will work with the technical, marketing and physical aspects of the project.

Through continued community feedback and interaction, students will refine their concepts and present back to the community. Before the end of the semester, students will have developed a full-scale prototype and have tested its usability at a community event.

StoryCorps work would serve as a model for the project.

Students will have the opportunity to explore these challenges and ultimately create a toolkit and short term activation that can address the larger issues of economic development.

FALL 2017

IPRO Time:  Tues. 1:50 pm

For more information contact: Monica Chadha: mchadha1@iit.edu




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.

Investigation 02: Vertical Circulation

Due: Friday 09 September, 1:50pm



Vertical circulation allows human and non-human actors and objects to convey from one elevation to another without exhausting too much energy.  Stairs, ramps, escalators and elevators are historical conventions of vertical circulation (in the same way that a haiku, sonnet or villanelle is a form of poetry). However, as any landscape or infrastructure they are collector spaces that are used by multiple users parallel and therefore offer a realm of social interaction. How can a design exceed the mere function of vertical circulation?  You will (a) ‘exhaustively” measure and record the intrinsic and extrinsic attributes of a stair on campus acknowledging all the actors in play.  (b) re-design the stair with programed intent.  Most stairs have the following attributes (treads, risers, nosing, structure, handrail, guardrail?, landings?, connection to two floors or other planes of activity, etc.).

This stair could also be an apparatus: for learning about some academic subject, to support social activity or encourage solitude, as a participant in organizing materials, as a support for conveying different sizes and types of (human and non-human?) bodies, etc.. Based on your your exhaustive analysis, program the stair considering existing and possible uses and behaviours.


1   Measure and Record Drawings- in panels 30×30 or 30×60  Demonstrate and show your observations, subsequent research and analysis (include sketches, notes, annotations, questions, researched/retrieved data.).  Draw conclusions and develop an agenda.  How can the stair exceed the mere function of vertical circulation?

2.  Re-Design -in panels 30×30 or 30×60  

Consider the elements and spaces that you have observed and recorded and compare them to the conclusions you’ve drawn.  Begin to alter your drawings to reflect the influences on the site and develop a strategy for modeling them. Alter and/or augment your drawings and build sketch model to reflect these influences.  

3.  Model Stair as ‘apparatus’- 30” x 30” x 15” (minimum),  scale 1”=2’ (60’ x 60’ x 30’)

Materials: Elements should be modeled using appropriate materials and thicknesses (museum board, cardstock, balsa wood, basswood, chipboard, dowels, etc.).  

Instructions: This is a planar and spatial model.   Thinking about the stair as learning apparatus, how can the stair be designed as a system that supports  learning, socializing, or some other agenda? Consider the materiality of elements required for various components and activity.

Some References

Julio Cortazar, Instructions on How to Climb a Staircase

Georges Perec, On The Stairs

Georges Perec, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris

Georges Perec, Infra-Ordinary

Herman Hertzberger, Space and Learning, The School as City

Rem Koolhaas, Elements, Stairs, Marsilio, 2014 (excerpts)

Christian Norberg-Schulz; Genius Loci, (see “Spanish Steps”) pages 160 – 170, 1979

02 / Stair / Workshop


Students to arrive Friday Sept. 02 with the following

  1. Sketch book
  2. Pad or roll of large, tracing paper
  3. Measuring tape or other measuring devices
  4. Drafting implements and tools

Workshop Schedule – 150min Total

In groups of two, exhaustively measure and record a stair on campus. Incorporating plan, section and/or axonometric diagrams, exhaustively catalogue a) the elements and spaces that make up the stair.  b) Record the actors and actions that make up the experience of stair.

Draw all the layers and components of the stair–Indicate the criteria, relationships, and systems of regulation for all of the elements and supporting spaces: spaces that need to be adjacent, spaces that require separation, spaces that overlap, spaces that transition into others, spaces contained within other spaces, spaces that are multiple and distributed, spaces that operate on several scales at once, etc…

Some References

Julio Cortazar, Instructions on How to Climb a Staircase
Georges Perec, On The Stairs 
Georges Perec, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris 
Georges Perec, Infra-Ordinary
Herman Hertzberger, Space and Learning, The School as City
Rem Koolhaas, Elements, Stairs, Marsilio, 2014 (excerpts)
Christian Norberg-Schulz; Genius Loci, (see “Spanish Steps”) pages 160 – 170, 1979

Workshop Friday 22 Jan 3:30-5:30pm

Students to arrive with the following

  1. Supplies (choose one):
    1. Large Pad of quality white paper, a pencils in a range of hardness (for example 6B 3B H 3H 6H), an eraser, and erasing shield.
    2. Large Pad of quality white paper, a speedball or manga quill, a brush, and black india ink, a cup, a rag.
    3. Large Pad of quality grey paper, pencils in a range of hardness (for example 6B 3B H 3H 6H), white pencil, an eraser, an erasing shield.
  2. A large roll of trace or a large pad of tracing paper.