Invisible City

Brininstool + Lynch Architects: Invisible City

Invisible City

Chicago, Illinois


In 2003, three major planning efforts were underway in the Chicago region: the Central Area Plan for downtown Chicago, a revision of the city-wide Chicago Zoning Ordinance, and the Chicago Metropolis 2020 plan for the metropolitan region. To encourage discussion about the effects of these initiatives on the future of Chicagoland, the Chicago Architecture Foundation invited three teams of architects to create visionary schemes interpreting the basic principles behind them.  Our firm focused on the Zoning Ordinance and the California Avenue Corridor.

If Chicago’s downtown business district expands to the west, it is a logical assumption there will be a revitalization of adjacent West Side neighborhoods. Public transportation will be an important factor in the redevelopment of these neighborhoods.

Using the principles of the new Chicago Zoning Ordinance as a starting point, our project looks at the stretch of California Avenue between a shuttered CTA Blue Line station on the Eisenhower Expressway and the CTA Green Line train that runs east-west on Lake Street. We propose reopening the Blue Line station to promote pedestrian traffic along California, where we have introduced new duplex and single-family housing among the existing housing and small businesses.

The CTA station at Lake and California is where we have concentrated most of our efforts. The idea is to create a publicly owned village center at the intersection. The three-story buildings on the corners have enclosed access to a new train platform, and house retail on the ground floor and commercial space above; they incorporate a glass scrim over a window wall on the top two floors, creating a sound barrier between the train and the buildings and allowing for operable windows for natural ventilation.

The CTA station features a canopy of translucent glass with a photovoltaic laminate to provide power for lighting and other equipment. A translucent-concrete material forms the base of the platform. The adjacent buildings provide the structural support for the train platform and canopy, eliminating the clutter of columns on the street and sidewalk. Contrary to the Zoning Ordinance’s policy to reduce signage, the train platform will incorporate advertising in a video format, shown on LCD screens laminated within the glass enclosure of the train platform.

A residential complex, organized around a public courtyard, adjoins each of the retail/office buildings on the four corners of the intersection. Two of the four- to seven-story residential complexes would be rental, and the other two would be condominiums. There is no on-site parking for these residential buildings.

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