Horto in Urbs

2011 Burnham Prize: McCormick Place REDUX (3rd Place Entry Horto in Urbs with Brandon Pace)

Horto in Urbs (garden in a city) merges modern relic with bucolic landscape. Once a discrete object lodged in the landscape, McCormick place now acts as a flexible framework for synthesizing natural habitat with architectural ambition. By stratifying park passages and circulation through the rationalist box, the elegant but looming mass of McCormick place no longer interrupts the lake shore experience. Each strata of the building – roof surface, plenum space, open floor and plinth all become distinct architectural environments. The building itself becomes a garden vitrine of urban leisure activity integrated alongside the lakeshore continuum. 

When Chicago adopted the motto Urbs in Horto (city in a garden) in 1837, it was a very different place from the city that exists today. The "city" then existed within a pristine landscape of expansive prairie, lush forests, and a vast lake. Chicago's rapid and expansive growth has since inverted this relationship - the city has overtaken and enveloped these natures. Horto in Urbs begins with this observation - that the "garden" no longer surrounds the city, but exists as a network taking on multiple forms throughout it. Within McCormick Place, Horto in Urbs looks to extend that network and further the notion of Garden in a City. By creating new relationships between various landscapes, architecture, and people this project amplifies interactions with "nature" and allows for new forms of leisure.