It’s been a few weeks since our last team blog post, but the team has continued to learn and make progress this month.

On the first week back after break (and after the bitter cold/snow day), the students were presented with their group project – an art museum! They will have the opportunity to design a unique art museum at Chicago’s Museum Campus. We dove right into some activities, including brainstorming about what we all want to see in the museum. Each student was full of ideas, and there was an obvious theme of wanting to make the exhibits interactive both with the people visiting on the inside and with the surroundings (natural and man-made) on the outside.

On January 21st, we began to think about the site design and layout, and how we want the site and exterior of the building to fit in to its surroundings.  The students broke up into three groups to focus on a few different topics, and each group presented their thoughts to the group at the end of the session.

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This past week, January 28th, we took a break from the project to learn about the various ACE scholarships and opportunities. Students were encouraged to begin their applications online during the meeting, and the mentors helped answer questions. In addition to a number of scholarhips, ACE also has a Design/Build Summer Program for students. It’s a great way to get hands-on experience with real designers and engineers, and students who complete the program are also eligible for scholarhips.


Next meeting: February 4, 2015 at AS+GG’s offices (Link to Calendar)

Current participants in the Chicago ACE Mentor Program are invited to apply for an ACE scholarship, summer internship, or position in the ACE Summer Design-Build Workshop.

Click here to access the on-line scholarship application. You must be an active participant in the ACE Chicago 2014-15 program, and have the e-mail and password you used during initial ACE registration.

Complete applications, including transcript and teacher/counselor recommendation letter, are due no later than Friday, February 20, 2015. Late applications will not be accepted.

For more information about the scholarship application process, contact your ACE Mentor team leader or Carol Moy at

Site Analysis…Inspirational Site Visit

“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the world exist. Be curious.”

-Stephen Hawking


Week 9 was very successful. We learned about how architects think in site plan/aerial view, floor plan, section, and elevation. A short exercise required students to draw bell peppers in these different drawing types to begin to grasp their meaning. Everyone did a great job! Even had some shading going on… well done! Next on the agenda was the site visit for our competition project. We did a little site analysis… checking the place out for elements and constraints that could shape future design decisions. The area seems to be a great location to revitalize… a void in the cityscape waiting to be populated with activity. Let’s see what we come up with programmatically next session… oh the possibilities!


Important Files:

Check the Google Drive (Link from Mentor) for nighttime site visit photos. We will have daytime photos soon as well.


Next Meeting:

VOA Associates (same time… same place…you know where to go! )


This week in Ace the students presented their preliminary ideas to our “clients”. Each group discussed their organization or space, site, building for and inspiration.  While all projects were interesting and creative, the “Little City” project was ultimately picked to continue with in these last couple of weeks. Next week students will be breaking into Architecture, Construction or Structural Engineering to begin the final design process.

For a little fun, the students of Team 2 split up into three teams and were tasked with designing a structure/capsule which might contain a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ cube, span a minimum of 6″ between two books, support the weight of a single can of pop, and have at least two window. There were specific materials available for “purchase” (each team had a strict budget) and time constraints within which they had to design, purchase their materials, and build. This exercise in time management, planning and design thinking skills turned out to be quite the challenge; throughout the construction process real-life issues even arose! After about 20 minutes the “owner” decided the models were too dark thus a change order for a skylight was issued. Later a citation for exceeding the noise ordinance level was issued and everyone had to whisper for one minute. Soon after that a labor dispute arose and, as a result, only the oldest member of each team was allowed to use any adhesives for the next several minutes. Despite these minor bumps in the road each team created beautiful and suitable structures! A great time was had by all and some insight to the full construction process was gained.

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The following week students learned and practiced section drawing and how this type of drawing can be using to articulate different, sometime more specific, ideas and information than elevations or plans. Imagining and sketching sections through various fruits and vegetables helped solidify this practice. From there, Team 2 worked to develop concept floor plans and subsequent sections of the performance space in Focal Point Community Campus!

This week Team 2 worked on developing the final project concepts. Through hand drawing and the 3D modeling in SketchUp, the students were able to mass out the selected concepts and program. It was a great chance for students to dive into the ideas they discussed in Week 7 and vet out how the overall concepts could become something more realistic for the Focal Point Community. See a few images below for a taste of where the project is headed!

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Concept… Design… Make a Wall Brainstorm…Words.. Images..

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

-Andy Warhol

So we missed week 7 because it was freezing outside but… Week 8… We had some great presentations including a very interesting look into Biophilia by VOA’s Jose Barajas and great information about the Maggie Daley Plaza! All presentations can be found on the Google drive…If you have any trouble accessing the drive please email your mentors!! Next on the agenda that day: firsthand conceptual design.. we searched through magazines to find inspirational images of what we all thought our new site could be… backstory: we chose a site in Chicago that needed to be revitalized and ideas were spewing… and we even had a few differences of opinion! Way to go ACEers! That’s the spirit.. keep up your opinionated conversations.. they will take you places! What a great start. Can’t wait to go actually visit the site and be able to do some site analysis. This will start to assign some guidelines and methods to the madness of possibilities!


Important Files:

See Google Drive (Email Mentor for Links)


Next Meeting:

Breah’s Advice: (Thursday, January 22) at the VOA Office, 224 South Michigan Avenue, Floor 14, from 5-7pm (same place as last week).  We’re going to have a short presentation and dinner and then we’re going to head out to our site to do a little research.  We will be leaving the VOA office promptly at 5:40 – so do not be late!  It’s about 5 blocks from the VOA office, so be sure to wear both comfortable shoes and warm clothing!!  Additionally, be sure to bring a writing utensil and maybe a notebook or something to use as a hard writing surface, as we’ll be collecting info on the go.

This week’s meeting focused on branding environment, interiors and beginning design process. Students engaged in a visual listening activity where they placed stickers on images that either had an interesting architecture or interiors that appealed to the students in some way. Many images will then be used as inspiration for the students as they begin designing their own spaces. We then continued into quick presentation about the site so we are more familiar with the location and other building and amenities near by. The students then used foam and Lego’s in a mass modeling activity. Primary goal of the mass modeling activity is to begin the design process from a big picture stand point.  Students began thinking about how they building will interact with the site and what the form of the building could be.

Upon return from the holiday break, Team 2 students were excited and eager to get back to work! We did a quick recap of our meeting with the client in Week 6 then parred down the programmatic concept list to the following:

IMG_3897– Performance space

– Job Opportunities

– Mural

– Garden

– Synergy




Despite the abstractness of some of these items, the students were able to articulate how all the concepts might work together, both as physical spaces/locations on the site and as community anchors for Focal Point. Next the students, using scaled blocks, created bubble diagrams and concept drawings that incorporated some or all of the concepts. We discussed these ideas and came up with some great brainstorms for the next week!


Team 2 is moving right along! Before the Winter Break we met with our client, representatives from Focal Point as well as the lead designers and project managers from their team. The students finalized their preliminary ideas for the site and presented these concepts. What followed was a great discussion and feedback session which have served as a spring board for design and planning at more recent meetings.

One specific outcome of this client presentation/meeting was a succinct list of programmatic concepts. The students focused on Culture, Food, and Recreation as overarching topics to more specific programmatic elements and described why they believed certain concepts would be valuable to the site.

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