The Ford Calumet Environmental Center is being developed by the City of Chicago’s Department of the Environment to industrial and ecological significance of the Calumet region of southern Chicago. The building will provide research and educational opportunities focused on the interaction between human beings and natural environments.
The architects used the process of nest-making as a conceptual model for the design of the Environmental Center. Similar to the way in which birds gather nearby materials to build their nests, the building is composed of discarded man-made materials from the Calumet industrial region. For example, the design bundles together pieces of reclaimed steel to form the main structural elements around which indoor and outdoor classrooms, offices, and exhibit spaces are arranged. During the design process, the project’s structural engineer provided a guide detailing a range of allowable steel sizes and shapes to help the project team select the right salvaged members for use in these bundled structural elements. Another distinctive feature of the design is a glass façade veiled in a mesh of thin reclaimed steel members to prevent birds from crashing into it – a major concern given the site’s location along a bird migration path. Other reclaimed materials include railroad remnants to create a path system through the marsh and wine barrel staves to build the exterior wood decks. With its airy facades and willowy structure, the building is intended to dissolve into its natural surroundings while creating a connection with the area’s industrial past.
Reclaimed Materials (by application): Wood/Lumber, Metals
Location: Chicago, IL
Date of Completion: In-progress (anticipated completion 2012)
Architect: Studio Gang
Landscape Architect: Scape
Client: City of Chicago