Easy Being Green

Chicago is on the cutting edge of an architectural movement to create buildings that look good—and do good, too. This fall, the Museum of Contemporary Art highlights enviro-friendly local projects.

Chicago is on the cutting edge of an architectural movement to create buildings that look good-and do good, too. This fall, the Museum of Contemporary Art highlights enviro-friendly local projects loaded with such features as green roofs, solar panels, wind-energy turbines, and rainwater-collection systems in its exhibition Sustainable Architecture in Chicago: Works in Progress. “I was looking for projects that brought together on equal footing sustainable practices and aesthetics,” says curator Elizabeth Smith. “In these examples you have really innovative, absolutely beautiful works of architecture.”

Top left Greenworks Headquarters, top right Hyatt Regency Chicago Riverfront Expansion, bottom left Pacific Garden Mission, bottom right Ford Calumet Environmental Center

(1) Hyatt Regency Chicago Riverfront Expansion And Exhibition Space (no completion date yet)
What it is: A 150,000-square-foot addition to the Hyatt and a multitiered, multiuse green path along the riverfront
Project’s significance: “I don’t know of another project that takes constituents of the city and constituents of the private sector and pulls them together,” says one of the architects, Elva Rubio of Gensler Chicago. “It’s evolving from the culture of the city: We’re Chicago-we can do anything, damn it.”

(2) Pacific Garden Mission (late 2007)
What it is: A new 156,000-square-foot facility for the largest continuously operating rescue mission in the country. Will be able to accommodate 1,000 homeless persons
The architect’s statement: “The cloister-an interior atrium open to the sky and given an outdoor environment, so the homeless have a place of their own protecting them from the public,” says architect Stanley Tigerman, of Tigerman McCurry Architects. “The cloister steps back to terraces on the second and third floor; it becomes a very open space that’s far more humane [than other shelters].”

(3) Ford Calumet Environmental Center (late 2008)
What it is: A new environmental education and research center in the 4,000-acre Calumet Open Space Reserve, home to marshes, wetlands, and prairies
The architect, on her inspiration: “To build the building like a bird would build a nest, using things nearby,” says architect Jeanne Gang, of Studio Gang Architects. “We’re going to collect all the materials from a four-mile radius in the Calumet area.”

(4) Greenworks Headquarters And Eco-Industrial Park (summer 2007)
What it is: A new headquarters building for Christy Webber Landscapes, surrounded by available lots in an environmentally groundbreaking industrial park
Green feature: Solar hot-water panels mounted above the front door. Says architect Doug Farr, president of Farr Associates, “There are angled columns that start on the ground, touch the front of the building, then project up into the sky. They’re architecturally the iconic calling card of the building, and they provide shade for the entry. It’s a dramatic twofer.”

Illustrations: top left © Studio/Gang/Architects, top right courtesy of Gensler, bottom left courtesy of Tigerman Mccurry Architects, bottom right © Farr Associates Architecture/Planning/Preservation, Chicago, Illinois

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