On August 24, 2017 a panel of distinguished academics, professionals, and cultural leaders named two College of Environmental Design alumna, Sonja Cheng (BA Arch '07) and Jennifer Ly (BA Arch '07), and a third team member Max Obata as first place recipients of the 2017 Burnham Prize Competition: Under the Dome. Sponsored by the Chicago Architectural Club, this year's competition asked designers to reimagine a dome attached to the abandoned St. Stephen’s Church in Chicago.
Built in 1917, the dome itself was designed by the R. Guastavino Company and was constructed with interlocking terracotta tiles and layers of mortar. Since the 1990s, the fate of the church has been contested, leaving the property abandoned and vandalized. Thus, the Burnham Prize Competition hopes to breathe new life into the space.
Cheng, Ly, and Obata’s winning project, titled New Waters, reimagines the church as a public pool that creates “a new environment for recreation, relaxation and spectacle.” Traditionally, churches have been thought of a space for communities to congregate. The designers have replicated this sense of congregation with a public pool which they believe has the ability to “regenerate the neighborhood while creating an intimate and playful public space.”
The reimagined space creates a bridge between the new and the old and joins an established network of 49 outdoor pools and 28 indoor pools that already exist in Chicago. The designers have also reconfigured the space into a multi-level groundscape and have included a design for a new dome that pays homage to the silhouette of the currently standing dome. The new dome employs modern technology and construction, glue-joined glass elements, and a pleated, slumped glass module. The designers hope that the new dome will bring light and air into the public swimming pool and make the dome an “urban beacon.”
You can read more about the competition and the New Waters project here.