Metropolitan Planning Council announces winners of Activate Union Station contest - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Metropolitan Planning Council announces winners of Activate Union Station contest

Metropolitan Planning Council

MPC's Activate Union Station contest winners will activate their spaces between Aug. 24 and Sept. 2.

Two teams will bring ideas to life at Union Station Aug. 24 to Sept. 2

(Chicago) … The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is excited to announce the two winners of our 2013 Activate Union Station placemaking contest, which this summer called for creative ideas to enliven Chicago’s iconic Union Station as a community gathering place and cultural asset. Blah Blah Blob!, submitted by Chicago-based architecture and planning firm Latent Design and Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, will activate the Plaza at Fifth Third Center. trainYARD, submitted by a Chicago-based team of architects, will activate the Great Hall in the iconic Head House. Each team is the recipient of $5,000, thanks to sponsor Fifth Third Bank, which they will use to transform Union Station with eye-catching designs and fun activities between Saturday, Aug. 24, and Monday, Sept. 2.

“Union Station is an iconic space with a storied history—and the Metropolitan Planning Council and many others who have worked on the Union Station Master Plan think this structure deserves a vibrant future in Chicago,” said MPC Program Director Marisa Novara. “The winners of the Activate Union Station contest are advancing a broader effort to rethink Union Station’s role in Chicago—not just as an indispensable asset to the country’s and region’s rail systems, but as a destination in its own right, for Chicago tourists and residents alike.”

“As the office building above Union Station is named Fifth Third Center, we are very excited to see the winners’ plans and ideas come to fruition,” said Robert A. Sullivan, President & CEO, Fifth Third Bank Chicago. “To say our curiosity is piqued would be an understatement. The winning plans are certain to enhance the experience of building tenants, commuters, local residents and tourists as they traverse through Union Station.”

“The entrants were creative, with a mixture of ideas that were practical in some instances and whimsical in many cases,” said Ray Lang, President of the Amtrak-owned Chicago Union Station Company, and one of MPC’s judges. “At Amtrak, we appreciate the interest in improvements to our station, which is a major civic asset and a hub for more than 50 daily Amtrak trains.”

Latent Design and Kent State University Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative

Blah Blah Blob! will bring playfulness to a space people too often associate with the hustle and bustle of their daily commute. A nylon sculpture, reminiscent of a children’s parachute tent or inflatable play pen, will be installed over an artificial lawn on the Plaza at Fifth Third Center. Lectures and other special events will take place there throughout the 10 days.

“Placemaking is a collective act that combines our desires to create shared public space and enjoy our urban environment,” said Latent Design Principal Katherine Darnstadt in her description of the project. “It isn’t solely defined by how it looks or who utilizes it, but instead by how well it engenders connectivity, activity, comfort and fun.”

trainYard visual plan

trainYard Team

trainYARD will bring the outdoor fun of summer into the Great Hall. With three distinct synthetic grass areas, the design will offer passersby a variety of activities, including tetherball, picnic tables and lawn games like bocce in a unique recycled landscape.

“We know that summer in Chicago can get hot and humid, which makes it hard to get out and enjoy the lovely parks around the city,” the team explained in a summary of their idea. “We are bringing the park to the people and putting it right in the middle of their daily routine.”

I Searched High and Low for You Visual Plan

Ann Lui and Craig Reschke

I Searched High and Low for You, the contest runner-up, sought to reimagine the iconic facade of the Headhouse and deliver some height to a building dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers. The Chicago-born, Boston-based architect duo behind the structure delivered a visually striking and impressive concept.

As a programming sponsor of the Activate Union Station contest, during the week of Aug. 26 Fitness Formula Clubs will offer free classes on the Plaza of Fifth Third Center, free body fat testing and a raffle for a free membership. The fitness club will offer the following free classes:

  • Monday, Aug. 26, noon: Zumba
  • Tuesday, Aug. 27, 5 p.m.: Fit kick
  • Wednesday, Aug. 28, noon: Pound
  • Thursday, Aug. 29, 5 p.m.: Pound
  • Friday, Aug. 30, noon: Zumba

Latent Design and CUDC will host additional events in the Blob, including:

Saturday, Aug. 24
5 p.m. Spontaneous Interventions Panel with Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative
7 p.m. Blob Party

Saturday, Aug. 31
7 p.m. Blob Party

The events at Union Station will debut Saturday, Aug. 24, and run daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Monday, Sept. 2.

Media may contact MPC Communications Director Mandy Burrell Booth, at 312-863-6018 (office), 773-640-1206 (mobile) or, to discuss the contest and to arrange interviews with the winning teams, Fitness Formula Clubs, Fifth Third Bank and/or Amtrak. All 25 contest entries can be viewed at


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