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GSA Quincy Court
Chicago, IL

Team

Mark Rios
Anthony Anderson
Jennifer Cosgrove

Categories

Awards
Civic
Graphics
Landscape
Mies van der Rohe’s 1964 Federal Center literally towered over this former service alley in downtown Chicago, and Alexander Calder’s adjacent 1974 Flamingo sculpture already brought a larger-than-life quality to the surrounding streetscape. Any plan to remake this small space into a welcoming public plaza had to reference both of these giants.

We focused on three conceptual schemes—canopy, urban oasis, and light—all of which establish a progression from the monumental architecture of the Federal Center to the pedestrian scale of State Street. Combined, these elements bring unity to a wildly divergent campus of buildings, and tell the story of the entire site by alluding to the unique elements that form its character.
The fact that trees were not permitted on this site initially felt like a handicap. But we quickly came to see this limitation as an opportunity to bring light and color to the plaza while alluding to the role of steel in Chicago’s storied architectural history. We forged a grove of abstract honey locust sculptures from steel and acrylic panels, and scattered four large acrylic leaves around the grounds, as if blown down by a strong gust of wind.

To unify the entire site, we added graphic facades inspired by historic terracotta tiles to two anchor buildings, one of which had been named Chicago’s ugliest edifice. The result is a new front door for a government campus that is also an engaging space where people can gather, relax, and socialize in Chicago’s busy Loop. Moreover, what was originally intended as a short-term improvement project has become a destination all its own.
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