Project

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Lakefront Kiosk Proposal

Lekker Architects

Shared By

Sara Johnson, Hanley Wood Media


Project Name

Lakefront Kiosk Proposal

Project Status

Concept Proposal


Team

  • Ong Ker-Shing
  • Joshua Comaroff


Type

Cultural

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This project was a finalist in the Chicago Architecture Biennial Lakefront Kiosk Competition.

Project Description

FROM THE ARCHITECTS:

Project Abstract

The form of this building is an attempt to express Chicago’s unlikeliness: that chutzpah, the strange emergence of something intricate and sophisticated in a hostile environment. It is a gradual transformation from a blank (vaguely block-like) mass into something more architectural, more refined, more domestic. On its surface, a pattern of shingles “fades” in, routed from plywood panels to increasing depth. For the Biennial, we had imagined it as a kind of micro-venue for local music and drinks, spilling out like many of the famous jazz and blues venues of the South Side. At other warm times, it might serve as an information booth or a food stand. In the winter, it is abandoned and takes on a strange form of solidity—a frozen mass, or solid object, that appears to be only half architectural and beyond the range of human inhabitation.

Written Description

Comaroff: This is a Chicago proposal, born in Singapore in a fever of nostalgia. The leader of this particular team, I grew up in Hyde Park and in Old Town. As a high school intern, dangerously in love with buildings, I got shouted at daily by Helmut Jahn. Stanley Tigerman told me that I should never, ever be an architect.

For many, Chicago will always be something of a magical place. A large part of this appeal may be its sheer unlikeliness, an impossible elegance in the teeth of impossible climate and geography. Despite the delicacy and sophistication of its buildings, one gets the sense that it probably should not be there at all. And with this, there is a genuine, local form of madness: a habit of getting revenge by making only the hugest, unlikeliest plans.

The form of this building is an attempt to express this unlikeliness: that Chicagoan chutzpah, the strange emergence of something intricate and sophisticated in a hostile environment. It is a gradual transformation from a blank (vaguely block-like) mass into something more architectural, more refined, more domestic. For the Biennial, we had imagined it as a kind of micro-venue for local music and drinks, spilling out like many of the famous jazz and blues venues of the South Side. At other warm times, it might serve as an information booth or a food stand. In the winter, it is abandoned and takes on a strange form of solidity—a frozen mass, or solid object, that appears to be only half architectural and beyond the range of human inhabitation.

Most obviously, perhaps, the form of this kiosk invokes a kind of persistent Chicago image: the “rude” Prairie house. Not the stylized version of Wright—which we are not skillful enough to take on—but the simpler, earlier version that suggests an origin of Chicago architecture. The gabled form that appears to emerge, pushing out of the stereotomic block, is something like a little shack that finds itself planted in Millennium Park (and later, somewhere else). It is made of wood, and appears at first to be shingled, suggesting a kind of building that would have stood prior to the great fire in neighborhoods such as the Southwest Side. As an icon, the image also recalls some of our favorite Chicago postmodern moments, such as Tigerman’s Black Barn, which we love unapologetically. More directly, it echoes those tough, lonely kiosks that stand along the lake, regardless of the season.

The surface of our kiosk is a sham; a shameless sham. It is also a reference to one of our favorite Chicago traditions: that architecture which finds a playful expression in “bad” or “wrong” materials. We are thinking, here, of our most loved local fantasy: the White City of the Columbian Exposition. We love that “staff” (basically plaster and burlap) applied to scenographic skeletons made for an amazing, utopian proposition about the American city. Even better that it was bullshit, and that architects such as Richard Morris Hunt seemed to enjoy working a material that was so dishonest, making buildings that gave a splendid material language to stuff that was considered too poor to engage.

In our proposition, the pattern of the shingle becomes a kind of skin or scaling. It is a purely nontraditional treatment. The shingles fade in and out, in the manner of a drawing or a cute Photoshop technique. It appears to solidify and articulate the building, but is not “fake”; it never pretends to substitute for the “real” thing. We play the same trick as Henry Ives Cobb with his quasi-tectonic ornament, trying out a language for a cheap materiality: plywood and paint. The shingle itself is meant to recall the extravagant roofs of an elegant Chicago, such as the Gold Coast manor of William Borden (another of Hunt’s works).
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