Professional year - Competitions - Project 1

Mine the Gap

I got together with another recent architecture grad and worked up a design for the Mine the Gap Competition held by the Chicago Architecture Club. We had about 5 weeks from our first meeting to the due date, so it was a pretty rushed schedule to develop an idea and compose our entry boards.

The competition was based around what to do with the 70 foot deep 90 foot wide circular hole dug for the foundation of the Chicago Spire by Calatrava, which is on hold for construction. Our idea was based around using the hole to create a museum like experience in which we educated visitors to the site on the elements of a city which are below the city street. Most people are used to looking at a city from the street level up, our entry sought to educate them on what is below the city street. All the pieces of the puzzle which reside under their feet and are integral to making the city run.

The short description of the project which was included on the boards is as follows:

When we walk along the street we see a city from the ground up; sidewalks, trees, historic building facades, and in the case of Chicago we see the EL and sections of double decker streets like Wacker Drive. These are all pieces if a city's visible skyline. We stand on a site that would have been the next proud Chicago skyscraper. If we look up there is nothing to see, but when we look down we see THE UNDERGROUND. In this vacant hole we give people a new perspective of the city's history, which is what lies beneath, it is the inverse elevation of the city.

Visitors encounter seven stops as they descend the hole, each placed relevant to what is portrayed. A tram car takes visitors in a spiral down the hole, stopping at each exhibit, allowing them to browse at their own pace. After reaching the bottom, an elevator quickly whisks them upward to an observation deck, where they can see the site and the city, and enjoy the view in a new capacity with the knowledge of what lies beneath.

Our structure is temporary; only meant as a placeholder until the Spire can return and once again bring Chicago the prestige of having one of the tallest buildings in the world. A title fi tting for the city where the skyscraper was practically invented. We've kept the site open, recognizing the value of large unprogrammed green spaces along the Chicago River and in places where thousands of people live and visit. We take advantage of the narrow river corridor and Chicago's reputation as the windy city to produce silent green power with state of the art helical wind

The underground seeks to and achieves its goal to make its visitors aware of that which lies beneath.


While our entry didn't recieve any award from the jury, we were proud of our concept. Overall there were 160 entries from all over the world and all accross the United States. I attended the judges panel discussion and presentation of the awards in Chicago on May 15th. It was interesting to see other competition entries, some which were interesting and some which I wasn't so impressed with. You can view photos of other entries here:

Our boards can be viewed by clicking on the links below (each open in a new window):

Board 1 (PDF)
Board 2 (PDF)