Jul 22nd 2019

Illinois Tech Students Receive AIA Chicago Honorable Mention

A group of students at Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture received an honorable mention in the American Institute of Architects Chicago’s Student Award in Architecture competition, which seeks to “recognize and promote the pursuit of design excellence in architecture.” The trio composed of M.Arch. students Alexander Aparicio, Qin Lu, and Yilie Wang stood out in a field of 25 submissions as one of the best student projects of the year.

The project titled “Contour Island” envisions a sprawling facility between new developments of Lincoln Park and the industrial corridor along the eastern bank of the Chicago River, north of Goose Island. Given the building’s location, the students conceived the building as a hybrid between manufacturing, exhibition, and public space. Manufacturing would take up the basement level with a bicycle factory, while event and retail space would occupy floors one and two. By use of an open atrium, visitors would be able to peer into the production space from the top two floors.

“Manufacturing sites tend to be closed off and private, but the process itself can be interesting, so we felt that it would be natural to connect the two,” says Aparicio.

The overall shape of Contour Island is irregular, and a lamella-trussed vault serves as the primary structure. Lamella trusses are formed with short, crisscrossed membranes, and are often used in large structures such as stadiums because they don’t necessitate columns for structural support. This, in turn, allows the interior space to flow openly and freely.

“We felt that the division of spaces would interrupt the flow of people through the building as a whole,” says Aparicio. “By having a direct line of sight over the length of the building, people can walk and wander toward whatever draws their eye.”

If the lamella trusses make up the building’s bones, its skin is made from an ethylene tetrafluoroethylene membrane. The prominent usage of ETFE—a translucent, foil-like plastic approximately one one-hundredth of the weight of glass—allows for natural light to flood the interior space.

“Infiltration of light into the production space was a priority, not only because of the visitors in the space, but also for those who work in the factory. Factories tend to be seen as closed off, isolated, with high windows and very little exposure to the outside, and we wanted to change that,” says Aparicio.

“Contour Island addresses the social, cultural, and economic connectivity along the Chicago River, which transforms the industrial site into a pedestrian friendly public venue,” says Gina Paradowicz, president of the AIA Chicago Foundation. “The AIA Chicago Foundation trustees felt that the project clearly illustrates the creative thought process, program, and the architectural and planning approaches through the successful use of the physical model, renderings, animations, diagrams, and technical detail.”