The Cermak-McCormick Place station serves the country’s largest convention center and a stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Green Line that has been without service since 1978. The design, a lightfilled and weather-protecting tube covering the platform, provides an attractive and joyful experience for riders and those passing by. It is the result of creatively working within constraints: constricted site, short construction schedule, modest budget, and no suspension of service.
Track realignment was not an option, as a result, the existing conditions would only allow a center platform, approximately 15 feet wide, to serve a community with anticipated population growth and transit use. With a narrow platform, the location of a-typical structure for a canopy in addition to station amenities (benches, signage/wayfinding, trash bins, ect.) would have resulted in a cluttered, tight, and hard to navigate space. The design solution was the development of a tube over Cermak Road, where the CTA right-of-way is both widest and most visible to the public. Locating train berthing over Cermak Road allows views to Chinatown, McCormick Place, and Chicago’s skyline/ Loop.
The perforated stainless steel and polycarbonate tube performs multiple duties: it provides wind and rain protection and a barrierfree platform, it places materials out of easy reach of vandals, and it creates a station easy to identify from a distance.
The polycarbonate and perforated stainless steel provides light, directs views, and subtly reminds passengers of the direction of travel. Four perforation patterns are used, none of them with more than a 23% open area. Counterintuitively, perforated materials deflect air if the percentage of “open area” is low. The open area percentages used at the station is effective for usual wind speeds in Chicago.
In general, perforation sizes and densities are arranged to maximize views over Cermak Road and to protect from prevailing winter winds.
The vicinity of the new station is home to McCormick Place convention center (the largest in the country), Chinatown, Bertrand Goldberg’s Raymond Hilliard Homes, and the Motor Row Chicago-designated landmark district. Located less than three miles from the center of Chicago’s central business district, it is an area that is seeing residential and convention center-related development, such as an arena and hotels. Prior to the opening of Cermak-McCormick Place station, the distance between the closest L station and the nearest portion of the convention center campus was half a mile. With the new station, the distance has been shortened by more than half.
The location of the station, with its sweeping views of the skyline, along with its form that provides a sense of enclosure for the elevated tracks, creates both a literal and metaphorical gateway for the large population of Chicago newcomers. Emblematic of a contemporary vision for urban connectivity, the station asserts itself as part of a larger context within the City of Chicago.
Ross Barney Architects is an architecture and urban design studio committed to designing distinctive solutions for every project that we undertake. The firm has created innovative, environmentally responsible, user focused architecture and civic spaces that stand the test of time.
From our inception, the studio has operated under the belief that the experience of exceptional space is a right that all society should enjoy. The firms’ diverse portfolio of work lends proof to the idea that great design solutions can be developed for any problem.
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