Human Capital Management

Destination: Chicago

FYI: The Rundown

February 2017

Oracle HCM World takes place in Chicago, Illinois, April 5–7, 2016. This year as conference attendees stroll around Chicago and admire the city’s world-famous skyline, they can also imagine possible futures, courtesy of projects designed for BOLD: Alternative Scenarios for Chicago, which were presented at the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial.

The project pushed local designers and architects to envision possibilities for the city’s ecological, economic, and social future without having to conform to actual client briefs. Here are some highlights. For more visit


The Big Shift

For years, zoning rules have prohibited development east of Chicago’s famed Lake Shore Drive. The Big Shift project by PORT Urbanism suggests using landfill to move the expressway further east and create 300 acres for an entirely new neighborhood and beautiful “Central Park-style” public space. The increased lakefront area would also provide new opportunities for recreation for Chicago residents. “You have to look at history to understand this is how the city developed before, and then you can understand that this is the next step,” says architect and urban designer Iker Gil, who is also the director of MAS Studio and curator of the exhibition. “It’s not crazy.”

The High Life

Building up instead of out is the only option in dense urban spaces. But that doesn’t mean high-rise development can’t be innovative. The High Life by SOM and CAMESgibson imagines skyscraper towers that connect to a shared core that houses public services such as electricity and sewage, and places homes on cantilevered levels that extend outward. “They want to give you the identity that you can get in the suburbs—where you can design your house and build something unique to you—and bring those personal aesthetics to an urban, dense setting,” Gil says. “They’re taking an entire street in the suburbs and making it vertical.”

Filter Island

In 1900, a massive public works project reversed the flow of the Chicago River and saved the city from disease caused by sewage contamination. But today, massive rainstorms—a fact of life in the Midwest—can overwhelm the system and cause the same old problem. Plus, the river has become known for invasive species that damage ecosystems. Filter Island by the UrbanLab envisions a water treatment landscape that eschews heavy, industrial equipment in favor of a low-energy, natural, hybrid solution that treats the water with wetlands and large-scale biocells—all in the form of public spaces that include swimming pools, water parks, beaches, sports parks, and playgrounds.

The Available City

The City of Chicago owns more than 15,000 vacant lots, mostly in underserved neighborhoods, and the Available City examines how those precious spaces could benefit people around them. Nine teams were convened to envision what these lots could become: everything from raised parks and wellness centers to community kitchens, gardens, and low-density microhousing. Gil says the point of this project—and of the entire show—is to start conversations that lead to real-world change. “We want to create an ongoing conversation so that when the city wants to create a park or public space, they engage architects,” Gil says. “We want to change mind-sets to establish conversations and trust.”

Photography by Shutterstock