Nicholas McMunn, Assoc. AIA

Nicholas McMunn, Assoc. AIA

Houston, TX, US


Activate Chicago - Open

The American city is rooted in its neighborhoods, public spaces, and infrastructure. Transforming the interstitial open spaces that characterize our cities can be a fundamental catalyst for community connectivity and socialization. When neglected or inaccessible, these vacant spaces become detrimental to neighborhood health and vitality. To address the needs of a diverse and changing urban population, space must adapt to the needs of a broader range of ages, physical abilities, and cultural backgrounds. Through small acts we can repurpose public space to be more universally accessible, inclusive, age friendly, and a builder of community.
Open responds to the crossroads of the Wisconsin and Lincoln site; the intersection of business, retail, residential and religion. The open platform for sharing, activation and interaction stems from the inviting circular forms engaging the direction of sight from the northeast and south entrances of the public space. From the interrupted circles comes life and involvement; an opportunity to engage the public square through the commitment of the community on a small scale. The commitment is present in the perennial planters as they drape life into the hardscape of the existing site. During the spring and summer each planter represents the sponsorship and donation of a surrounding store, resident, restaurant or religious facility to help provide plants for the space. The same holds true for the winter months when the planters can be replaced with rotating ice and snow sculptures as an invitation for the youth of the area to activate the space.
The outreaching arms of the installation are a representation of the natural element on the site and create a bridge between the rigidity of the concrete, brick and the suspended vegetation within each partial circle. The direction of the linear components that compose the rings mimics the flow of pedestrian traffic through the site in a rigid form of representation while also recognizing the separation of the site by tracing the line created by the red brick pavers and concrete walkway.
Through the use of wood and other readily available materials the installation creates poetry with the existing plant life by representing the trees already on the site. A faux canopy generated by the suspended vegetation invites the community to rest in the installations shade as it extends the shadows already present on the site. The reverse effect is planned for the night hours. As the sun sets and the lamps flicker on, the dancing of the shadows continues. Because the rings straddle a lamp the illumination of color and the casting of filtered light at night creates a destination spot in the public square. From sitting to laying, the curves provide an additional dynamic to the space for the publics enjoyment. Open was designed with the ideas of community being transparent and unified through the enclosure of a public good. The interrupted rings are only seen as whole when the two components share the communities perspective.

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Near North Chicago
My Role: Designer

Initial Sketch
Initial Sketch