Division St Dance Academy
I have just completed my Masters Project here at IIT’s College of Architecture. My work towards this goal in large part accounts for the lack of recent posts. Now that that is over, I will resume this blogging exercise.
This project grew out of a recognition that contemporary large scale development in mature Chicago neighborhoods most often creates a negative parasitic relationship to the community in which it is placed. In Wicker Park, this can take the form of condos with ground level retail and lots of parking. This has the perverse effect of using the very urban and cultural attractions that make it prime for development to create conditions that degrade those conditions.
A dance academy has an architectural and cultural program that can form a symbiotic relationship with a host neighborhood. Wicker Park is an ideal host for this program, with its recent history as an artistic and cultural destination in the city. By replacing two parking lots and a fast food restaurant with this cultural facility, the neighborhood immediately sees beneficial effects, from reduced automobile traffic crossing sidewalks to visitors from other neighborhoods arriving at the dance theater via CTA, spending money before and after events at local restaurants.
By putting both the formal and informal aspects of dance and its education on display to the neighborhood, Division St Dance Academy strives to create an architecture that creates connections to the neighborhood. The primary rehearsal studio is placed on the corner of Division St and Ashland Ave, overlooking the Polish Triangle. In addition, the 24 hour program of classes, performances and a dormitory keep the building alive with action throughout the day and evening.
The Main Auditorium, Black Box theater and lecture hall all share a common lobby, allowing for multiple performances to occur simultaneously, bringing the mixing of the public square into the building on show night.
This project grew out of an desire to create a responsible development in a neighborhood I adore. I have been in Wicker Park for a decade now, and have seen large changes. People who have been here longer can tell you even more about the way it was. I always found it odd and suburban that an acre of land, at an El stop no less, could be turned over to parking and unhealthy food. No one is going to build Division St Dance Academy any time soon, but if they did, it could have a long-lasting, positive and symbiotic relationship with the neighborhood.
And now that I have earned a masters degree, I hope to get the opportunity to practice an architecture of responsibility.