Entry for the Chicago Architecture Biennial Lakefront Kiosk Competition
Crystal is a four season landmark, a site specific pavilion. Its verticality mimics the Chicago’s skyline, and its nautical materials nod to Lake Michigan. The unique form derives from lake crystals - from selenite and ice crystals. The geometric form is softened by wrapping sailing rope, a covering which permits breezes, views, and light. It is simultaneously recognizable and unobtrusive.
Crystal is comprised of three asymmetrical, angled towers that emerge as a hybrid condition of natural and man made forces. Each tower is framed with four glulam trusses braced by four glulam rings. Glulam consists of many small pieces of lumber laminated together with a durable adhesives. With glulam, the unusual truss shape and span are possible. White mooring ropes wrap these trusses in a geometric cloak. This rope cladding—woven into notches along the lengths of the trusses—creates a breathable structure, extending subtle views, casting soft shade, and filtering dappled light.
The type of rope used is UHMWPE, ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, specifically selected for its engineered strength. With eight- to fifteen-times the strength-to-weight ratio of steel, high-abrasion resistance, and water resistance, UHMWPE rope is used for high performance sailing, para-sailing, anchoring, and mooring lines. Functionally, the rope will withstand a marine environment in all weather conditions. Wind passes through the rope screen. Aesthetically, the use of rope lends a sculptural quality to the crystal shape and forms distinct moiré patterns as it filters light and shadow—creating a highly photogenic pavilion for visitors to the Lakefront and Millennium Park.
At night, Crystal glows. Solar flood lights sit on the twelve rings of the towers. It serves as a lighthouse for people.
The Crystal’s outwardly complex design harnesses a simple kit of parts with low tech connections. The structure is able to be easily assembled and disassembled by volunteers.
During the warm weather months, Crystal serves as an enclosed commercial kiosk. Triangulated wood planes trace the pavilion’s form at the base, enclosing a secure 200-square-foot open space. A counterweight pulley lifts one plane to reveal a service counter while another operable plane acts as the entrance door. Natural daylight floods the center of the kiosk from a triangular skylight. All of the treated wood planes have diagonal ridges to mimic the striation of the rope facade and to draw attention to the geometry of the base. At summer’s end, the kiosk planes are easily removed, restoring the interior space to a public pavilion.
Millennium Park’s distinct urban identity as Chicago’s front lawn—a social and community place of both reflection and activity—informs the verticality and visibility of Crystal. The two are a natural fit. In this park setting, flexible LED strips—Colorkinetics by Phillips—will be woven with the mooring rope. The resulting digital facets support dynamic light installations to draw and engage visitors. These digital displays can take the form of active digital presentations or passive light shows during the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Crystal is a response to Chicago’s unique urban conditions overlapping with the natural force of water that gave shape to the city. It’s strong crystalline forms visually merge the glass skyscraper with the ever-changing face of Lake Michigan. The softness of woven rope counters its rigid structure and distinctive shape. The pavilion serves dually as a community gathering spot that augments the city around it during all seasons—and a visual beacon that adds to the vibrancy of the city itself. Crystal gives form to the forces that shaped Chicago into today’s glass and steel metropolis on the lake.