CAF on the Move

Yesterday the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) announced it will be moving about seven blocks from its longtime digs at 224 South Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute, to 111 East Wacker, facing the Chicago River. The move, which will take place next year, is a logical one, given that CAF is known best for its architecture river tours. The Chicago Architecture Center, as it will be called, is being designed by AS+GG. Containing a shop, gallery, lecture hall, and design studio, the Chicago Architecture Center will sit right across the street from the dock for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady Cruises (its official name) and across the river from the new Apple Store designed by Norman Foster.

[Rendering courtesy of CAF]

The move, though logical for CAF's operations and visibility, is evident of a shift in Chicago's downtown toward the river. 111 East Wacker sits near the earliest stretch of the Chicago Riverwalk, whose third phase opened last year. Mayor Daley had Millennium Park, but for his successor, Rahm Emanuel, it's all about the Chicago River.

More than any shifting tides in the city, though, I'm most intrigued by the design, which is much more than renovating a storefront. The design encloses an open plaza beneath the building and reworks the base where it meets Wacker Drive. Here is the existing condition, by comparison with the rendering above:

[111 East Wacker existing | Google Street View]

I don't see any objections to AS+GG's design, especially since the walk up Wacker from Michigan Avenue toward Lakeshore East has never been very nice (no wonder the outdoor seating at Houlihan's is empty in the view above), and the nicest parts of the elevated Illinois Center plaza is found on the other side of 111 East Wacker.

The Chicago Architecture Center is expected to open in summer 2018.