• New Systems: Rethinking the Future of High-Rise Districts
    Chicago Architecture Center, Chicago
    Fall 2023
    Chicago Architecture Center

Networked pilons and path for “La Défense: Making a System” for French insurance company, Groupana, 2021. Digital Rendering. Courtesy ChartierDalix

Architects at the Paris-based firm ChartierDalix have been studying the conditions of the high-rise business district across multiple cities. A result of twentieth century utopian visions, these high-rises too often stand as isolated totems on the landscape, producing at ground-level an environment lacking accessibility and vitality. In the context of successive crises-environmental, economic, and social-ChartierDalix looks at the impact of these forces on Chicago. It is here where ChartierDalix sees opportunity, preferring to accept the built heritage rather than destroy it, and to imagine a new circulatory system for these buildings, one made in the image of a people in search of being together. Through a pop-up exhibition and accompanying public programs, the Chicago Architecture Center invites Chicago designers to take similar stock of systems like transportation and open space, and channel ChartierDalix's vision for a downtown Chicago as a thriving neighborhood.

Frédéric Chartier is curator for Our Changing Downtown and cofounder of the studio ChartierDalix, which was established in 2008 with Pascale Dalix. Recognized in several international competitions, the French firm has been awarded numerous prizes, including the prestigious Equerre d'argent in 2022 for the Public Hospitals headquarters in Paris. In 2017, the Academy of Architecture attributed the firm le Soufaché, in recognition of its collective body of work. In 2020, ChartierDalix authored a study for the La Défense district entitled “Making a System.” It outlines some of the tools and visions for its evolution, making verticality attractive in an open-air experience of the city. In September 2023, the French public institution for Architecture, La Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, will support Chartier’s residence with the Villa Albertine in Chicago, for the study, “What Manner of Rehabilitation for 20th-century Towers? The Lesson of Chicago.”

Cecil Barnes V is a research assistant for Our Changing Downtown and an architect with ChartierDalix focusing on international competitions and projects incorporating adaptive reuse. These include a project to convert a 1930s maternity ward into a new school in central Paris, a new urban development in Warsaw rehabilitating a building of historical significance, as well as a feasibility study of how to reuse an early twentieth century telecommunications building in Paris. Barnes holds graduate degrees from New York University in Historical and Sustainable Architecture and a master’s of architecture from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Aleja Castellanos is a French-Colombian architect working at the ChartierDalix office as head of editorial content and communication. After Castellanos graduated from Versailles Architecture School, she attended a training cycle in “Architectural critics through contemporary photography” at Le Jeu de Paume. She participates in editing and publishing works such as the forthcoming ChartierDalix monograph. She also takes part in ChartierDalix’s research studies about the relation between architecture and nature. Castellanos is lead documenter for Our Changing Downtown.

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) inspires people to discover why design matters. As Chicago’s forum for the exchange of ideas on urban innovation, CAC encourages people to be active in the creation of their communities, to demand the highest standard in urban planning, and awakens young people to achieve their potential through the discovery of architecture, construction, engineering, and design. The CAC was founded in 1966 as a campaign to save the historic Glessner House and has since evolved into an organization dedicated to advancing the public interest in Chicago’s significant architectural heritage. CAC has grown an extensive set of programs to include docent-led tours (with a passionate corps of more than 350 volunteer experts), exhibitions, lectures and symposia, and design education curricula that celebrate Chicago as a center of architectural innovation.