Cloud Studio

“The contemporary architect must be aware of the myriad forces shaping urban reality. Through his or her professional performance, intellect, and research, he or she navigates and works with these complex forces to direct the shape of the built environment. The time for universal urban models—totalizing utopian visions—may be over, but the need for new strategies for the city is no less acute. In this globalized era characterized by rapid transformations of the built environment, it is critical for architects to develop their consciousness of the complexities of the contemporary world. In order to equip a new generation of architects to develop new strategies, architectural education must strive to produce new and in-depth knowledge of the forces that drive development.”

Vedran Mimica 
IIT College of Architecture

2017-2018 CLOUD STUDIOS Metropolitan Waterfronts for Housing the New Generation of Millennials

"What sort of prosperity is this that we should foster and maintain? Not that for rich people solely or principally, for they can take care of themselves, but the prosperity of those who must have enjoyment in order to live."

Daniel Burnham-architect, businessman and benefactor, author of the 1909 city plan, organizer of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893, and father of Chicago's lakefront.

“Eventually, I think that Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the modern world”

Frank Lloyd Wright, London lecture, 1939, in The Future of Architecture, Horizon Press.

“Architecture and the language of architecture–platform, blueprint, structure–became almost the preferred language for indicating a lot of phenomenon that we’re facing from Silicon Valley. They took over our metaphors, and it made me think that regardless of our speed, which is too slow for Silicon Valley, we can perhaps think of the modern world maybe not always in the form of buildings but in the form of knowledge or organization and structure and society that we can offer and provide.”

Rem Koolhaas: “Architecture Has a Serious Problem Today

The Cloud Studio is a design based research studio focused on investigating the complex forces that shape the built environment and proposing new strategies for urban development. The Cloud Studio program explores housing programs as different urban habitats in search for new models for densifying cities while rethinking an individual and collective metropolitan experiences. High-density housing with mixed used additional programs should fulfill social demands for contemporary modes of living, new working conditions, advanced learning, consumption and leisure time.

The creation of the new urban habitats should address the emerging generations of urban dwellers. The new generation of Millennials, also known as Generation Y are the demographic cohort that directly follows Generation X and are fundamentally influencing the “production of social realities” in Lefebvrian sense in global metropolis. Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the 1991 bookGenerations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069,define the Millennial cohort as consisting of individuals born between 1982 and 2004.

Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially-networked world, and represent the urban population on the move with pressing housing needs. Among “local” millennials we can find migrant workers, expats, economic or political refugees, temporary scholars, exchange students, mobile workforce……

Millennials are a generation that not only can’t afford to buy a house, but also doesn’t want to. The labor market is volatile and unpredictable – forcing Millennials to move in the search of work, seeking education and safety.

Cloud studios should question what kind of design of urban habitat can offer assistance to populations on the move? Urban population experience the collapse of segregated activities into a single integrated and fluid lifestyle, since we can’t any moredescribe the urban life as 8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of leisure. The question to be answered is what is an appropriate spatial diagram to house this new way of life?

Cloud studios should investigate the metropolitan waterfronts as location for development of urban habitats where the workplace and the home collapse into a hybrid unit and a more social, community-based model blurs formerly distinct urban districts and landscapes.

City of Chicago lakefront represent a dynamic and fluid edge condition where changes to the shore began almost as soon as the city was founded.

In many ways, the Lake Michigan shore created and shaped Chicago, and it continues to be the city most defining physical feature.

At the far north and south ends of the city, natural forces may still determine the shape of some beaches, but the city development has radically altered most of its shoreline.

The renowned Columbian Exposition of 1893 reshaped the land of the southern shore and created Jackson Harbor. The ambitious Burnham plan of 1909 reimaged the lakefront as monumental civic sculptural landscape completed with parks, lagoons, canals, islands, and promenades. Chicago lake front today is nothing more than an updated version of Turnham’s dream for the lake front.

The sites for Cloud studios at Chicago lakefront should be selected in a relation with current initiatives of development of mixed used future districts, at and in relation with lakeshore. Complementary sites in other metropolitan areas, can be selected for design based studio research in Spring semester; creating a critical comparative model of waterfront developments.

The work of the Cloud studios 2017/18 will be presented at the Open House exhibition in May 2018. To paraphrase Koolhaas, the work should ideally represent an architectural disciplinary contribution to form of knowledge and organization and structure of the future metropolitan society.

Vedran Mimica
Cloud Studio Curator


Sustainable Vertical Urbanism: Towards 2050
Dr. Peng Du & Dr. Antony Wood

Planet Earth’s future in 2050 seems doomed. It has been foretold since the beginning of the 21st Century that cities will no longer be able to be self-sustainable in a planet with a changed climate. The consequences of such changes have created unbearable conditions for human in large urban areas. As if it wasn’t enough, population patterns have radically changed. Disproportion in between the urban population and those in rural areas has created a terrible economic inequality. Cities have also changed; monotonous and dull cities have been created due to the lack of understanding and relevance of vernacular architecture, and globalization has turned cities into generic wastelands.

The answer to these conditions relies in abandoning cities and creating new ones in regions which need to be proved sustainable and free from natural disasters. Through two semesters, students will have to come up with a new typology of a vertical city for several of the planet’s diverse ecosystems. To complement the research, students will travel to the CTBUH (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat) 2017 International Conference at Sydney, Australia. There students will have the chance to explore different approaches to this research by analyzing case study projects.

The final product will be presented using physical and digital models of the designs, as well as an article to be published at the CTBUH website. Projects will have the opportunity to be submitted to the CTBUH 2018 Student Design Competition.

Strategies for IIT and its Neighborhood
Dirk Denison

A campus, a master plan, and a neighborhood, are elements of contemporary urban architecture. Together, these elements become rich places; places with soul and personality where people can dwell, enjoy learning, and have a happy life.

The Bronzeville district possesses great cultural and historic heritage. Its location just South of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan provides excellent ground for a variety of phenomena that have created a singular environment. The potential of a site such as this could infinite. This Studio will focus on the research of historical and modern contexts of IIT’s Mies Campus, located inside Bronzeville.

Students will develop a mixed-used project and will analyze its potential influence in its immediate surroundings. Through analysis of contemporary case study, students will continue to explore the development of IIT’s campus, giving continuity to a research started by SANAA and will be introduced to the 2017 Chicago Biennale of Architecture.

Waterform Building
Martin Felsen

In the past, architecture has tried to develop ideas and concepts that would enable humans to address a wide variety of programs, both known and unknown, inside a single structure. These prototypes or Hybrid structures provided architects with future-like solutions to the problems of the contemporary metropolis. Exploring these concepts has become essential to the understanding of architecture and its ability to confront the different realities of cities across the globe.

Chicago, a city intertwined with Lake Michigan and its rivers, must respond to this context where water plays a major role in its daily activities. A new network of water transports called Vaporetto needs to serve the city’s need for communication while providing ground for urban experimentation. Students will create a series of interconnected transportation hubs envisioned to support the needs of a global city like Chicago and that also provide the city’s actual urban grid with new ways of interacting with the water within the city. This research will be held alongside different actors, such as government, industry experts, and professors; enriched by conferences, exhibitions, and research trips.

The product of this studio and research will be a series of projects which must be done by thinking “outside the box”, provide solutions for the Vaporetto water transportation network, and make a dialogue between the density of the city and the endless possibilities of water in the city of Chicago.

Millennial developments at the waterfront to regenerate the river
SOM - Jorge Rovira

The Chicago River waterfront was once the place that allowed the 19th and early 20th Century Chicago to expand its industries. As time went on, the factories left the site leaving the river to have a set of endless possibilities. New developments have arrived at the site but some have neglected the potential of such an important natural element at the city downtown. These have contributed to the segregation of the city’s neighborhoods and the creation of conflict around opposite banks of the river. A new generation of dwellers (Millennials) see the city in a different way, therefore development must also respond to a new generation of urban citizens.

The Studio aims to create projects alongside the river that provide solutions to this new context. Students will be encouraged to promote the creation of mixed used developments, public spaces, and ecological features that interact with the river beside them. Projects should also aim to use the river as a mean to unite the city’s neighborhoods and end segregation through the use of landscaping, innovative design, public oriented urbanism, and multidiscipline architecture.

The students will need to periodically visit the site where their projects will take place. They will work with SOM partners, often working at SOM headquarters in downtown Chicago.

Making Metropolis: Rivers and Rails
Steve Brubaker

When cities were created, they placed themselves close to means of transportation of goods and people. Trading routes were placed on the outskirts of urban areas, and as time went on, cities grew to the point where trading routes were now placed in privileged positions inside the metropolis. These “urban accidents” are now sites for research and development since cities are becoming denser and their development demands building near metropolitan cores.

Studio will work on projects in both Los Angeles and Chicago during a year period and address issues of how metropolis should be developed. Close interaction with Chicago’s riverfront and a trip to Los Angeles will enable the understanding of the conditions each site has to offer. Each city provides a unique and completely different background for analysis and design; therefore, projects will have to carefully understand the site they were given, its history, and its connection to the streets and neighbourhoods. Understanding of the human scale is vital to allow projects to be connected to users

The Space in Between
Christopher Groesbeck & Monika Thadhani

The metropolis has alienated public and private architecture. A gap in between them has historically been able to connect both and create spaces of interaction. New opportunities and challenges to the city appeared as consequence of technological development. These developments have transformed society into isolated beings seeking for interaction in an urban environment that denies such opportunities.

The Studio will research amongst historical documents and case studies to analyse the site called “The Gateway” between Chicago’s South Loop and Burnham Park. An interdisciplinary approach to this context will ensure the ecological, economical, and social viability of projects that aim to work in the gap between the public and private spaces. The projects will have to rethink metropolis and communities working on thresholds; the in-between of the public and private space. Conferences with different experts and a study trip overseas is required to provide enough data for its analysis and use in the project.

TU Delft - Winy Maas, Felix Madrazo, Stavros Gargaretas
John Manaves

Wealth distribution patterns dictate unequal space distribution. Creating skyrocketing land values, space has turned into a precious commodity. (Space) Much of today’s architecture creates spaces which are unused most of the day. (Time) This happens at all scales, from the housing unit to the neighborhood. Since technology has blurred the line in between software and architecture, it has provided architecture with new capabilities. These new technologies have the potential to be used in architecture to create dynamic structures which respond to time. Thanks to these achievements, cities would be able to use less space and still have more dense environments. With dynamic programs in different structures, architecture will physically adapt to the desires and needs of its users.

Studio research will focus on the design of a new architecture; one that adapts to the spatial demands of the user depending on the time of the day: Buildings that compress and expand to make way for other needs, different uses, and different activities within the same space. The research will focus on housing units that can accommodate different users with different needs at different times. Students will have to select technologies that best suit such concepts, and that enable the project to adapt in real-time.

The students will generate a journal-like book to evaluate the development and performance of their projects. Dynamic physical models and user briefs will have to be manufactured upon completion. The students will work simultaneously with students at TU Delft in the Netherlands.

Temporal Inhabitations
Lluís Ortega

New generations are becoming nomads of the globalized world. This phenomenon is a wakeup call for cities around the world to adapt and change as fast as possible. Until now cities have been unable to match the speed of these changes. New models for nomad life rely on the historical precedent of the hotel. The concept of a nomad-user building must be created, and the interior spaces it creates emphasize the nature of the new proto-city; a city that focuses its uniqueness in the infinite possibilities of the interior rather than follow generic patterns of design for shells.

Studio will abstract history to create hotel and landscape hybrid interiors for a project to be designed in a site close to Barcelona for the first semester. The studio will work alongside Torcuato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires, and the result of their research will be discussed periodically. On the second semester, the studio will use what was learned in the first project and will work in a similar fashion for a site in Chicago; Goose Island. Research will be meticulously documented for its use among students when designing interior spaces. “Interionomy as a subfield of Architecture”

Pezo von Ellrichshausen

The relationship between humans, architecture, and water is explored through analysis of diverse sources of water. The poetics of such vital element have coexisted with its dynamic/static properties. Studio will focus on such properties to create a project alongside Chicago’s lakeshore. Work from students should reflect a careful and extensive research though drawing, physical models, and complex analytic geometry.


Cloud Studio Work Gallery

Cloud Studio 2017 - 2018 Briefs

Sustainable Vertical Urbanism: Towards 2050

Agent of Change: Campus Intervention

Waterform Building

River Detox: Millennial developments at the waterfront to regenerate the river

Making Metropolis: Rivers and Rails

The Spaces in Between


Interior Scapes: Temporal Inhabitations

Still Elevation