Thompson Center design contest finalists unveiled

Michelle Gallardo Image
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Thompson Center design finalists announced
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The three finalists in the Chicago Architecture Center's Thompson Club design contest have been announced and are now on display.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A waterpark inside the Thompson Center? It sounds fantastical. But if left to the designers at Chicago-based, Perkins & Will that's what they would do it.

"Our proposal would convert the concourse into a new pool complete with super slides and other fun amenities," said David Rader, designer at Perkins & Will. "There would be a splash gate where the current DMV currently exists."

The waterpark concept is one of three finalists in a competition sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Center. The purpose is to bring the building into the 21st century, and preserve it as a public space, saving it from demolition now that it's up for sale.

"Number one was to preserve that atrium. Preserve those elevators. That wonderful experience you get the moment you walk into the Thompson Center," said Travis Rukamp, Chicago Architecture Club.

Loved by some, hated by others, the Thompson Center is a building which has always elicited strong emotions. It's architect, Helmut Jahn died in a bicycle accident last May, a week after the building was put up for sale. He once joked the structure cemented his reputation abroad, but ruined it in Chicago. Preservationists are now desperately trying to save it.

"This is our chance to be really creative," said Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago. "Make it a true landmark for the city and a destination, not unlike Millenium Park which, 30 years ago, was considered pie-in-the sky as an idea."

And while there's no guarantee the eventual buyer of the Thompson Center will adopt any one of the ideas put forward, those behind them hope they will at least move the city and the state enough to landmark the building as a condition of sale.