Revisiting our Avenue

Type: Speculative
Program: Burnham Prize Entry
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Status: Completed 2020
Brief: "Revisiting our Avenue" is a speculative question, exploring what if the Avenue streetscape was transformed from a vehicular thoroughfare into a pedestrian-centric urban connection.

More than a speculative proposal, “Revisiting Our Avenue” is a vision for greater humanization of our city, transforming Chicago’s streetscapes from vehicular thoroughfares into a pedestrian-centric network.  Aiming to connect us within our city, the vision proposes an alternate transport strategy along the North Avenue corridor that initiates transformation of other major thoroughfares. Our approach offers much of the avenue to the pedestrian, removing cars and introducing a “Surface El” as part of a curb-less streetscape. As precedents in other cities prove, this direction will catalyze a more sustainable and healthier Chicago.

Posing a simple question, “What if there were no cars?” inspired us to imagine “Our Avenue” as something far greater than the traffic-centric corridor it is today.  We propose creating zones of pedestrian mobility based on one’s desired speed of travel, in addition to rewriting the current zoning regulations for new and existing buildings along the avenue. By requiring carved facades, continuous overhead protection is provided for pedestrians throughout the year. Additionally, revitalization of our local ecology is achieved through the reconstitution of native landscapes and localized storm water management systems as well as harvesting and storing clean energy for the avenue and its adjacencies. Consequently, significant reduction in light pollution, noise, and heat island effect will provide physical and mental health improvements alongside cleaner air and clearer skies.
We can change our city’s fabric and trajectory by embracing the opportunities this proposal seeks, following in the steps of “Make no little plans.”