2014 Skyscraper Competition
John Houser, Parke MacDowell
This project side-steps the common stylistic tendencies of computation-driven architecture, synthesizing our expanding digital toolset with the language of Classicism. At a time when these digital tools facilitate the generation of novel and varied architecture form, we embrace nostalgia and acknowledge the inherent, if indefinite, significance of the Classical elements, genera, and their organization, taxis. Classicism provides an established register against which architecture might be evaluated and understood. Thus, amid a preponderance of indeterminate architectural form, a new Mannerist Project emerges, augmenting and modifying the Classical kit-of-parts and rule set with computational methodologies.
Located at the site of the abandoned Chicago Spire, this project is motivated by the city’s history of tower-building and place-making. While the neoclassical style of the 1893 World’s Fair was not without detractors, none can deny the potency of its image. Its ordered civic grandeur inspired classically-styled architecture and city planning throughout the nation, legitimizing a rapidly evolving society via analogy to valorized ancient regimes.
This building understands classical form as an architectural means of codifying social structure. The parallels are overt: a configuration of discrete parts, governed by over-arching rules of proportion and order. With this in mind, the tower’s deep classical facade can be evaluated with respect to its deviation from the norms of the classical canon. Here, the genera are represented faithfully, the Doric, Giant Ionic, and Colossal Corinthian Orders rendered true to historic norms, but their organization is heretical. Hierarchy has been reconfigured in this thickened envelope of cascading classical thresholds. The primacy of greater Orders over lesser can no longer be taken for granted, sequence is fractured across multiple elevations, rhythm and symmetry emerge, then disappear. As such, the building reflects contemporary social structures, where diffuse and malleable networks have supplanted rigid hierarchical systems.