Revisiting the Avenue

Type: Speculative
Program: Board for "Between States" Exhibition
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Status: Completed 2017
Brief: "Revisiting the Avenue" explores streetscape and transportation to socially activate heavily traveled North Avenue

Chicago’s 2nd Ward was entirely re-mapped by the City Council in January 2012. The resulting boundary is sporadic and sprawls across portions of 16 Chicago neighborhoods, each made up of diverse demographics and urban conditions. From Ukrainian Village to Streeterville skyscrapers, North Avenue is an opportunity to re-visit a sense of cohesion and continuity that grounds the meandering network of neighborhoods comprising the 2nd Ward.
We are exploring an alternate transport possibility along this corridor with a potential to apply this intervention at other major thoroughfares within the city. Thinking forward using the city's past, our strategy offers the majority of the Avenue to the pedestrian. Removing personal vehicles and re-introducing a "Street Car" concept along a pedestrian-centric North Avenue will be the catalyst to becoming a healthier city.


What if there were no cars?
Oct. 30th 2032 - The cubs won the world series again yesterday. North Avenue is especially quiet this morning after the celebration. The early sun glimmers off of the recently watered plants, and the last of the morning’s delivery trucks turn off onto Leavitt St. With a sly smile, I realize that these may be the last automobiles I see all day.

Could we walk anywhere?
The beautiful quiet is only partially disturbed as the streetcar hums past. It stops and lets out what feels like an endless stream of people connecting to the Damen “L” stop. Café seating bleeds into a grassy knoll. Customers enjoy the last warm days as they watch cyclists fly down the middle of the Avenue.
As the streetcar disappears into the distance, I try to imagine the invisible lines marking Bucktown, Wicker Park, Noble Square, Goose Island, Lincoln Park, Old Town, and Gold Coast. But they are impossible to make out through the procession of fall foliage.

Could the street transform?
At the Goose Island stop, the Chicago River opens a hole in the urban fabric, and the vista of the downtown skyline rises up. Ahead, a group of elderly men are slowly exercising under the shade of an old rail bridge. I see a crowd gathering in the distance. As I approach, the sound of laughter fills the air. The wide patio in front of The Second City is ringed by a low berm, pushing the streetcar rails to the far side of the Avenue and forming an impromptu theater.

Could it grow?
Dark clouds make their way across the sky. Rain is not a problem after the new setbacks ordinance. Almost all the buildings overhang the Avenue, providing cover from the unpredictable weather. This loose experience of the city was once found only on North Avenue, but now these curb-less thoroughfares have sprouted up across the city. Similar lines on the ground, surrounded by stretches of paving and nature cast a wide, green net, which holds the city together.