Our brief was to design a mixed-use building that would inhabit the neighborhood of Oak Park in Chicago, IL. The program of the building was to include a cafe, radio station, office space, and rentable venue space. Because of the neighborhood’s direct connection to downtown Chicago through the “L”, I decided to base my design off of the iconic 330 North Wabash Building by Mies van der Rohe With the use of the I-Beam – much like Mies I was able to divide the space into a series of zones and modules creating a grid. Unlike Mies, I broke the grid. By doing this I was able to create expansive spaces within the building’s interior as well as create three grand outdoor experiences.
On the ground floor, the cafe features a covered patio that spans the length of the building. Designed to engage the street, it was to become an inviting destination for people walking by. With the cafe being roughly two stories, I was able to supply ample seating for the guest as well as create a dynamic experience.
Just above the cafe, the office space was designed to ensure that both collaborative and independent work could both be accommodated. This can be seen in the front half of the building which features an open office space with high ceilings along with a suspended platform that serves as a lounge. The rear half of the building features a more traditional approach to an office layout along with a conference room that looks out to the raised office patio two stories above street level.
Finally, the uppermost floor has been reserved for private events. Upon taking the elevator to the top floor, visitors are able to go outside towards the front of the building where an open-air space provides a scenic view of Oak Park while serving ample space for parties and events. On the rear of the building is a two-story concert hall space which not only provides a great venue for live music, but also a desirable space for public speakers.
When designing this building for the community of Oak Park, I approached it as if I was designing a micro-community within the neighborhood. Trying to provide the right amount of work, play, and wonder. With this design people are encouraged to engage with the building not really knowing what to expect which I believe is the key to all great architecture.