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Thompson Center’s Future? Waterpark, Vertical Neighborhood And Public School Win Design Contest

As part of an effort to save the building from demolition, a design contest was launched to come up with creative reuses.

The proposed public pool in the atrium of the Thompson Center

CHICAGO — The future of the embattled Thompson Center could be a farm, a school or even a pool if the winners of a design contest get their way.

As part of an effort to save the building from demolition, the Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Architectural Club launched a design contest to stir interest for future uses for the Helmut Jahn-designed state office building, which is up for sale by the the cash-strapped state.

On Tuesday, the centers announced three winners, including a futuristic water park with spiraling slides wrapping around the building’s soaring lobby.

The designs were selected from a pool of 56 entires by an all-star panel of jurors. They’ll be displayed through October as part of a Jahn exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Center, 111 E. Wacker Drive.

The winners are:

“Offset: The Vertical Loop,” which proposes a ground level public park and floors with different uses, including residential and retail. The roof would have homes and vegetable gardens. Hanging plants would stream through the atrium. The design was submitted by Christopher Eastman and Tom Lee of Eastman Lee Architects.

“One Chicago School” is a prototype public school focused on public policy and civic engagement for students. It was submitted by Jay Longo, James Michaels, Kaitlin Frankforter, Michael Quach, Abaan Zia, Mackenzie Anderson, Nicolas Waidele, Roberta Brucato, Zachary Michaliska of Solomon Cordwell Buenz, Chicago.


“Public Pool” turns the Thompson Center’s atrium into a public waterpark with a hotel above. “Inspired by the playful attitude of Helmut Jahn’s post-modern interior, the proposal imagines a place that could be accessible to all Chicagoans and creates a unique destination in the heart of the Loop,” according to a press released. It was designed by David Rader, Jerry Johnson, Ryan Monteleagre, and Matt Zelensek of Perkins&Will, Chicago.

The proposed public pool in the atrium of the Thompson Center
A reimagined Thompson Center would include the “Public Pool” by David Rader, Jerry Johnson, Ryan Monteleagre and Matt Zelensek of Perkins & Will.

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