Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicago Pierscape Project: notes from team !melk’s public conversation at AIA Chicago—Monday 20 February 2012

Pictured above are artist’s views of team !melk’s Great Pier Project.

Jerry van Eyck was the principal presenter of team !melk’s proposal at the AIA Chicago last Monday evening. The presentation was an informal encore gathering.

In essence design team !melk’s proposal reiterates the City of Chicago’s motto: Urbs in Horto (“City in a Garden”) that correlates nicely to a cleaner, greener, sustainable city environment.

Principal designer Jerry van Eyck, co-founder of !melk flew in from New York City on Monday afternoon to discuss and synthesize the Chicago Pierscape Project proposal. Around 100 people came out for the event. Jerry, who is the point person for team !melk, opened the meeting at AIA Chicago by asking the question, “What is authentic architecture in Chicago?” For van Eyck a primary focus for the New Navy Pier was expressing the exceptional geology and iconic relationship of Lake Michigan to the city of Chicago. Team !melk members attending the meeting gave brief summaries of their ideas and their specific contributions to the project. They all seemed to view the New Pier as a grand gesture to developing inclusive art and an authentic public space in Chicago.

Water is the main feature of the proposal and the objective is to utilize the water approach in a visible and artistic way. The design is based on the analogies of the flow of water or watery surfaces and enlivening public space by “getting down to the water.” Van Eyck and other team members expressed emotional responses to water with such words and phrases as “rhythmical movement in waves,” “rippled concentric patterns,” “undulations,” “surges of activity,” “bursts of feeling,” and “oscillations of energy.”

Van Eyck emphasized that team !melk’s design was influenced by the principles of Charles Jencks, architectural theorist, landscape architect and designer of “Garden of Cosmic Speculation.” According to his website, Jencks is “known for his books questioning Modern architecture and defining its successors—Late, Neo and Post-Modern architecture.”

Charles Jencks writes:
To see the world in a Grain of Sand, the poetic insight of William Blake, is to find relationships between the big and small, science and spirituality, the universe and the landscape. This cosmic setting provides the narrative for my content-driven work, the writing and design. I explore metaphors that underlie both growing nature and the laws of nature, parallels that root us personally in the cosmos as firmly as a plant, even while our mind escapes this home. 
The Pier is where the primordial elements of land and water meet with the built environment. The complete proposal could be thought about as a garden design based on natural and scientific processes to achieve a celebration of nature and life. In many ways the team !melk proposal reflects van Eyck’s Dutch sensibility of reclaiming land from the sea—just like a celebration of the polderlands and water in the Netherlands.

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