Photo: Cassandra Davis
© 2015 School of the Art Institute of Chicago; All Rights Reserved
Photo: Cassandra Davis © 2015 School of the Art Institute of Chicago; All Rights Reserved
November 30, 2015

Lakefront Kiosk class: Seeing design in action

The words “innovation” and “professionalization” are used often at SAIC, and these ideals areexemplified by the Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects (AIADO) Lakefront Kiosk class. The class was designed as part of the Chicago Architecture Biennial Lakefront School Kiosk competition in which three institutions were paired up with an acclaimed architect to design and build a kiosk for the city’s lakefront. Grad and undergraduate students, under the guidance of Professor Douglas Pancoast, were able to garner professional experience first-hand through their contributions to the design of critically acclaimed architect Kunle Adeyemi’s Lakefront Kiosk on Montrose Beach, which will be built in Spring 2016.

During the kiosk class students and faculty took on the mammoth task of coordinating research and providing a localized space for Adeyemi’s firm, NLE, to complete their designs. Kate Barbaria, the teaching assistant to Professor Pancoast, and a second year graduate student in architecture, expressed her enthusiasm for the NLE-SAIC partnership: “Adeyemi is a professor. You get to see his practice. NLE is pragmatic and has a system of problem solving. It’s great to see how they do things that have academic integrity as well as being buildable. That makes Adeyemi and his firm a really great fit for SAIC.” Communicating through Skype, and later in person, Adeyemi was able to use his time in Chicago to develop ideas for the kiosk and offer brief mentorship to students in the AIADO department through studio visits.

The Montrose kiosk will be Adeyemi’s first structure in the United States. Owing to his unfamiliarity with Chicago, the students in the class went about researching the site and its materials and meanings to provide the team with a base knowledge of the area. Pancoast and Barbaria then went about designing a program in which the students proposed interventions at the site . Some students designed objects for the space, while others proposed happenings or occupations to anticipate how the structure might be used. Celia Hao, a recent SAIC graduate, designed adaptable furniture for the site: “My “intervention” design is a ash wood bench system which, after simple adjustment, can transform into dining tables, resting benches, or lighting features for people to use in the kiosk. Each bench system is composed of 12 pieces of 16”X16” local ash wood cubes. The cube units can be stacked one to the other to provide different functions, and can be moved around the kiosk to be flexible.”

For many students, this was their first time working on a project that will be built in the near future. In addition to working with an acclaimed architectural firm, students were offered a peek into the bureaucratic nature of design. Mike Chang, a fourth year undergraduate student, explained how the class differed from his other design courses: “Most of our projects are very theoretical. This was a totally different experience. I learned a lot about structure and process by attending city meetings and going through rules and regulations.”

Both Hao and Chang have been instrumental in assisting Pancoast and Barbaria throughout the kiosk class, and have continued to work on the project up to its current phase, in which some of the limestones currently reside in Millennium Park. Chang will continue to participate in the project until its completion: “Towards the last phase of the project called construction document, we have to provide a detailed set of construction drawings of the kiosk for its construction. I’m looking forward to participating in that too.” Barbaria’s role has also shifted throughout this process, moving from TA to assistant to Pancoast: “I was workshopping with the students continually, and once those six weeks were done, I continued to assist Douglas on the project with the Shapiro Center. I did things like go to the site where we were collecting the limestone rocks, and started to survey them and prepare documents about their various dimensions.”

Between coordinating with contractors, the city, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, NLE and the commercial clients of the site at Montrose, the project extends far beyond the classroom. “It’s a class that I hope that every design student at SAIC gets to take. As I student you have amazing freedom. You can see how an up-and-coming architecture firm functions. You can see how the Biennial functions and has alternative or competing desires. SAIC has its desires and needs. They don’t always sync up. You get to see how messy it is,” explained Barbaria.