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Action Lab Featured in Winning Redesign for the Thompson Center

September 14, 2021

Thompson Center School Design
Chicago Prize finalists announced

ID is thrilled to appear in a winning proposal for the 2021 Chicago Prize, whose entrants where challenged to reimagine the State of Illinois Center, also known as the James R. Thompson Center. The building, alternately hailed both as an iconic post-modern landmark designed by architect Helmut Jahn, and as an inefficient monstrosity with a $17 million annual maintenance and operations price tag, is potentially slated for demolition. The three winning submissions were proposals for reinvented alternative uses: a water park, a vertical neighborhood, and a new urban public school.

The school proposal, submitted by Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB), pitched the idea of a truly urban school with a theme of social justice and civic engagement. The plan calls for elementary classes at the base, progressing up to adult education on the top floors. ID’s own Action Lab was cited as an example of the type of ground-floor tenant that could mesh with the themes of innovation, social good, and learning.

The state, which owns the building, is not obliged to pursue any of the ideas, so the winning proposals will likely remain simply provocative ideas. ID is still delighted to be an imaginary tenant in an imagined future.

What element is more central to breakthrough design than provocative ideas? We're flattered to have been included by SCB in this speculative future.
—ID Dean Denis Weil

The winning proposals of the competition will be on display at the Chicago Architecture Center starting September 14.