Interstitial Exchange

Spring 2018

Mcormick place/Chinatown, Chicago, IL

Professor: Paola Aguirre


Positioned in an intermediate location between McCormick Place and Chinatown, Interstitial Exchange acts as a bridging intervention to stitch the surrounding urban fabric. Interstitial Exchange provides a platform to activate the site and promote visual, social and programmatic exchange. The programmatic elements of Interstitial Exchange are shaped through the forces around either side of the site – thinking of McCormick Place as a site for technological, intellectual exchange as being the largest medical convention center in the US and Chinatown on the other side being a hub for cultural exchange providing a holistic approach to wellness. Thus through the lens of wellness and exchange, Interstitial Exchange functions as a civic dispensary and tech- incubator that allows for transactions, interactions and all types of exchange in between whilst acting as a community catalyst.


Interstitial Exchange is programmatically organized in pulling from the context, specially the users of the community. The built spaces are organized along a diagonal axis providing a new axis and complementing the existing infrastructure with three distinct spaces: the civic dispensary, a space with clinics for physical and mental health that is located along Cermak on the northwest corner, the tech- incubator which can be seen as an experimental station, a production space for health start-ups on the south-east corner of the site and a connecting bridge element that programmatically ties the two as it offers a teaching kitchen, medical training classes and new health product consultation and retail spaces. The conceptual idea of bridging is formally seen through this sky bridge that acts as connective tissue for the site as it can be thought of a place of exchange between McCormick and Chinatown becoming a meeting point for the digital advances and holistic approaches to medicine to morph. Using the geometry of the built spaces as points and forces and flows around the site such as the Hilliard Homes for the elderly, National Academy for children, the future residential development and the commercial activity along Cermak as lines to give rise to the a floor pattern that offers directionality and results in marking various supplementary outdoor plaza spaces. It is the overlap of geometries that offer hubs for intersection and collision, interstitial experiences and a unifying field for exchange through the public realm. The pattern was developed through a framework of rules, one of which was offset, which was determined by intensity and activity of program of these various spaces thus amplifying the different character and experiences these spaces offer as active or passive, hard or soft landscapes. These plazas include a restorative garden for seniors to rehabilitate, play space for the children at the school, an urban farm for community building and market place for socialization and appreciation of the experience of eating and other wellness initiatives.


Interstitial Exchange explores the relationship between the built and the landscape, structure and surface through the articulation of the ground condition and the façade system of the built spaces that have its own logic and act as a visual cue for the types of spaces, their hierarchies and intensities such as publicness and openness. It is through the articulation of a screen like element and the multi- layered formal composition of the built spaces providing activation over and under that enhances the idea of visibility and exchange. It is also this design strategy that allows for the interstitial moments and thoughtful transitions that are further suggested through program adjacencies.