In preparation for the first Chicago Architecture Biennial, architects worldwide proposed kiosk designs inspired by the Windy City and its Lake Michigan waterfront. Pirouette represents a joint proposal by Denegri Bessai Studio and Studio Great Lakes

A clear expression for the ‘current state of advancement in architecture’ is a built form that is rooted in the ambitions of the past, and projects forward as a formal and material translation. This proposal strategically uses precedent as a driver for the design process. Method: Examine and interrogate the concept and design process of an iconic structure within the Chicago landscape to develop a sensibility. Use this sensibility to design a formal translation that functions first as an exhibition space to celebrate the discipline of architecture, and then as an iconic form at the lakefront for retail use. Objective: Showcase the ‘ambitions, challenges and possibilities fueling the architectural imagination today to steer the future field’.

The PIROUETTE design translates a retroactive aesthetic from a timeless icon on the Chicago skyline and speaks to the accelerated speed of change in the architectural landscape today.

Beneath the theme ‘State of the Art of Architecture’ one would expect not only current and forthcoming ideas but acknowledgement of past precedents. Architects such as Mies Van Der Rohe and Daniel Burnham made monumental contributions to the Chicago landscape with state-of-the-art architecture of their time. It is critical to understand what others have envisioned before us to make space for innovative ideas for futures. The PIROUETTE design expands on the ambitions of Bertrand Goldberg to drive a design process for a kiosk on Chicago’s Lakefront.

Goldberg’s Influences
Bertrand Goldberg imagined Marina City, one of the most iconic and arguably most heroic structures in the Chicago skyline in 1960. As a Bauhaus student, Goldberg learned’how to see’. He developed an interest in spatial compositions that were based on pure geometries and he explored the generation of three-dimensional form from two-dimensional patterns. He also developed a value system that was based on industry and production. The urban planning and cylindrical towers of Marina City are a direct result of these interests.

When Goldberg returned to Chicago, he studied structural engineering at IIT and became heavily influenced by significant architects of the time. An apprenticeship with Fred Keck (a pioneer of midwest modernism and industrialized building) delivered exposure to one of Goldberg’s major influences, Buckminster Fuller. He looked to Wright for structural inspiration, specifically the Usonian principles of projecting horizontal planes and the columns of the S.C. Johnson Wax Building. Finally, the Auditorium Building by Louis Sullivan was a significant precedent for Marina City with its urban mixed-use program and inter-relationships of space.


plan and elevation

Goldberg’s Formal Concept
Goldberg’s love for pure geometry informed his social and urban motivations in architecture. Goldberg believed that people should not live in square boxes (‘psychological slums’) and that “each person should retain his own relation to the core”. These interests led him to the futuristic structures of Buckminster Fuller to conceptualize Marina City. Goldberg imagined a tower design unlike any of the time; through form he made a social statement about urban housing and ‘community’. Marina City was the first United States project to use cranes for construction and, made with concrete in-situ, was the tallest reinforced concrete structure of its time.

open/closed section

Formal Concept
The core and balconies of Marina City established its iconography. Resting on eight caissons, the core rose faster than the floors in construction and created an initial identity. The repetitive balconies, defined by projecting floor plates and thick flanking columns with floor-to-ceiling glass, framed unobstructed views to the city and were seen as kernels on a ‘corn cob’.

PIROUETTE sources the successful formal qualities of a structural core and ‘framed views’ to conceptualize and encourage a scripted viewing of both the waterfront and the urban landscape. Conflating a couture gown and the hinging of an umbrella, PIROUETTE reinterprets the core and balconies of Marina City as a corset and flowing bustles of a skirt. In a folded, closed state, the corset cinches the skirt modifying the form to a rigid resting structure. In an open, released state, the structure becomes the twirling skirt of a dancing woman.

installation sequence

One of Goldberg’s first commissions was the North Pole Ice Cream Store. This store was designed for a location in Illinois for summer and Florida for winter. In his transcript entitled ‘Space on Wheels’ Goldberg defines this mobile structure as “a new alloy, neither trailer nor building but combining the best of both elements”. PIROUETTE is a direct translation of this concept of mobility. It is a foundationless structure that can pop-up or fold-down and is easily dismountable for transport.

isometric sequence

model in ‘open’ position

When open, PIROUETTE acts as a cultural center for the Chicago Biennial, exhibiting architectural imagery and selling a branded t-shirt; eight radiating stands display a series of Chicago architect graphic tees: Burnham, Mies, Sullivan, Wright, Goldberg, Gang, SOM, and Ross Barney. The retail displays are movable enabling a variety of uses for a lakefront kiosk.

model in ‘closed’ position

When PIROUETTE folds down for the evening, it illuminates and displays urban imagery of Chicago.

Goldberg used traditional planning strategies to formalize entries and provide geometric forms the negative space necessary to objectify them. PIROUETTE requires but is not limited by this same negative space that is abundant at Chicago’s lakefront and at Millennium Park. PIROUETTE can be sited in a variety of contexts since its round form is approachable from all sides.

Location: Chicago, IL
Year: 2015
Collaboration with Studio Great Lakes