Ford Calumet Environmental Center | Studio Gang Architects

• June 28, 2009

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Ford Calumet Environmental Center StudioGang plusmood 02 595x357 Ford Calumet Environmental Center | Studio Gang Architects

Ford Calumet Environmental Center, demonstrating the sustainable principle of reuse, cost-effective and innovative design, designed by Chicago-based architect firm Studio Gang Architects. A very good attempt of using basket-like mesh of woven recycled and re-used rebar and steel to enclose the south-facing porch that creating passive solar shading and protection against bird strikes, while allowing unobstructed natural ventilation and views to the surrounding landscape.

+ Project description courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

The City of Chicago Department of Environment and the State of Illinois partnered to develop a new environmental center in the Calumet area just south of Chicago. On Earth Day 2004, Studio Gang’s winning entry to the international design competition for the center was announced. When completed in 2010, the Ford Calumet Environmental Center will educate the public about the industrial, cultural and ecological heritage of the Calumet area, and will provide an operational base for research activities, volunteer stewardship, environmental remediation and ecological rehabilitation. The design was selected from over 120 entries because it exemplified the client’s mission.

The 27,000 sf learning center includes classrooms, exhibition areas, labs, offices and an auditorium. It connects to outdoor nature trails and gathering spaces on a 130-acre site in order to teach visitors about the past and present of the Calumet region’s unique patchwork of industrial and natural areas.

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Like a ‘nest,’ materials for the building are collected from things abundant, nearby and discarded. The Calumet region, once home to a booming steel industry, is now home to readily visible, derelict remnants of the industrial era that once brought it commercial life. The environmental center’s design is composed of salvaged steel from the Calumet region and other discarded recyclable materials such as slag. In highlighting these materials, the building demonstrates the sustainable principle of reuse, as well as cost-effective and innovative design.

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Diagram courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Ninety-seven million birds die annually in the U.S. from collisions with glass windows. The south-facing porch, enclosed with its basket-like mesh of salvaged steel, protects the migrating bird population from such collisions. At the same time, it creates an outdoor classroom for visitors and becomes a blind for observing wildlife.

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Ecological-sustainable design diagram, courtesy Studio Gang Architects

Geothermal heat pumps, earth tubes, a bio-mass boiler, wind turbines and water collection systems are integrated into the overall building design and become part of the educational component of the center and its site.

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Ecological-industrial context in which materials for the project are gathered,
courtesy Studio Gang Architects

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Floor plan and surrounding “recycled slag-garden” parking area,
courtesy Studio Gang Architects

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North elevation courtesy Studio Gang Architects

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South elevation courtesy Studio Gang Architects

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Section courtesy Studio Gang Architects

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Section courtesy Studio Gang Architects

+ Project credits / data

Architect: STUDIO / GANG / ARCHITECTS
Project: Ford Calumet Environmental Center
Location: Chicago, USA
Owner: City of Chicago Department of Environment and Public Building Commission
Cost: $13.5 M
Completion: 2010

+ All images and drawings courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

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Category: Architecture, Education

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  1. [...] Daley’s last kick in the teeth to the city he supposedly so dearly loves is the death of the Ford Calumet Environmental Center designed by Jeanne Gang/ Studio Gang.  For the better part of a decade, despite funding of [...]