Anapanopticon—Grand, Milwaukee and Halsted

Student Work at Columbia College Chicago

The matte gray mass of buildings on Grand, Milwaukee and Halsted, in the near west neighborhood of Chicago, always intrigued me as I passed it— what goes on in this quasi-castle/factory, boarded-up building? It was a former headquarters and warehouse for a restaurant supply company, Royal Industries, Inc. It had been abandoned for a few years. My studio project was to tear down or reuse the existing structure and choose any kind of program for it.

It looked a bit like a prison, and while I thought this impenetrable mass could use a courtyard or pathway inside, I was reminded of Jeremy Bentham’s late 18th century idea of the Panopticon prison— a concept that has been constructed in reality several times over, and in Foucault’s interpretation increased sociologically over time. However, I did not want to make a prison, so I studied what the antithesis of a Panopticon might mean, an anti-panopticon. By inverting the idea of an omnipotent eye of authority watching its subjects' every move, I decided to create a space where authority could be transparent and interactive with the People.

As the idea and studies progressed I decided to have the main focus of the building be the town hall (or district hall) and alderman’s office. A cafe/bar in the same complex would serve as a counterpoint and at the same time a place of interaction along with community in an adjoining courtyard. As the site is a great location for public transportation and bicycling (Milwaukee is a route many take to downtown jobs), a center for renting/fixing bikes and a bikeshare program would fit in well. As an outreach to the community and tourists alike, the Anapanopticon complex would be a carshare office/pickup as well.

The courtyard and a CSA farm pickup would bring the community closer through regional/local purchase of organic goods, as the courtyard could be used for a farmer’s market. A stationary bicycling gym would pay users for generating electricity through kinetic processing of cycling, and the green energy would go back into the grid.

An innovative cladding would be used for the skin facing the south— as black surfaces absorb heat and white reflects it, mechanical “scales” would flip sides according to temperature readings. The black scales would turn when cold, the white when hot, thus providing an extra thermal layer of protection.