Highlights of Student Work

Following is a selection of recent projects by Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) students. This work—focused on tall buildings and vertical urbanism—showcases an emphasis on connected urbanism, rather than on a single tall building.

Nova Pro Forma Adapt

New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, United States  |  2024

The recent challenges facing urban environments have brought into sharp focus the role and viability of existing tall buildings within our downtowns. Students were tasked with the ambitious goal of transforming existing tall buildings through meticulously crafted action plans. These plans not only focused on architectural redesign but also incorporated robust business cases for new uses of these structures. The studio explored a wide range of innovative uses such as Carbon Capture, Energy Generation, Energy Storage, Food Production, Server Farming, Tourism, Multifamily Housing, and others, adapting these to the context of existing tall buildings.

Nova Pro Forma

Various Cities, United States  |  2023

The goal of this studio was to reimagine the tall building as the embodiment of emerging and entirely new uses that speak to new modes of working and the ecological imperatives we are experiencing today. Students chose from among the six “alternative” use the following cases for tall structures and develop both an architecture and a nova pro forma, the business case to support this new use: 1) Carbon Capture; 2) Energy Generation; 3) Energy Storage; 4) Food Production; 5) Server Farming; 6) Medicine; and 7) An amalgam of all the six cases to support multifamily housing.

Future Timber City

Del Norte County, CA, United States  |  2022-23

Students were tasked to design a future city of 10 million inhabitants, built out of timber to the greatest extent possible, as a response to contemporary and future pressures of climate change, rapid population growth and massive urbanization. The students began with research projects to explore the key viable solutions for the future city in 2070 and beyond (e.g., specific city location; urban densities and organizing principles; urban functions and sizing; forests and trees; energy generation and storage; food production; water; waste; urban transportation systems; and use of mass timber) and integrated the research findings into their design scheme.

Towards Zero-Carbon Cities

Shenzhen, China  |  2019-20

This year-long studio conducted research in order to develop a typology of possible sustainable vertical cities that integrate the maximum number of relevant sustainable design strategies and technologies, not only in terms of carbon, but also in terms of internal environment, building community, and the impact of the building on the physical, social and cultural realms. 

Towards Net-Zero Carbon Skyscrapers

Shenzhen, China  |  2018-19

This year-long studio conducted a research in order to develop a typology of net-zero skyscrapers that integrate the maximum number of relevant sustainable design strategies and technologies, not only in terms of carbon but also in terms of internal environment, building community and the impact of the building on the physical, social and cultural realms. Semester 1 embraced abstracted skyscraper designs based on significant research. Semester 2, which also included a week-long overseas field trip to Shenzhen, China, applied the learning to a specific, and real, site in an existing urban context.

Sustainable Vertical Urbanism: Towards 2050

Global Studio  |  2017-18

In this year-long studio, students were presented with this scenario: The year is 2050 and, after five decades of attempting to adapt cities to cope with “natural” disasters of increasing frequency and severity in the face of accelerating climate change, humanity has come to accept a simple truth: that many existing cities—especially coastal cities—are no longer viable into the future. Students were asked to determine the most sustainable global locations for new cities, and determine how these cities can maximize environmental and cultural symbiosis with both terrain and climate.

Sustainable Vertical Urbanism: Towards 2050

Global Studio  |  2016-17

In this year-long studio, students were presented with this scenario: The year is 2050 and, after five decades of attempting to adapt cities to cope with “natural” disasters of increasing frequency and severity in the face of accelerating climate change, humanity has come to accept a simple truth: that many existing cities—especially coastal cities—are no longer viable into the future. Students were asked to determine the most sustainable global locations for new cities, and determine how these cities can maximize environmental and cultural symbiosis with both terrain and climate.

Today, there are more towers than ever in Miami – but the new developments reflect the dynamism of a 21st Century city that seems to be growing into its relatively young skin. Brickell City Centre is a $1.05 billion mixed-use development. Strategically located in the center of the Brickell financial district, this is the single largest project currently underway in downtown Miami. Brickell City Centre is anticipated to bring a whole new level of urban living and sophistication to the area. The students investigated alternatives to the overall Brickell City Centre Development and proposed programmatic and design solutions for the Phase II Tower and its integration into the existing Phase I buildings.

The site sits atop of the new terminal for East Side Access and will form the western gateway to Grand Central – both the train station and its subway station. Thus, a transit hub with train hall and connections to other transit facilities will be a required part of any program. Students were tasked to develop a tower that pushes the boundaries of what it means to build a truly “three-dimensional city” – mixing programs, encouraging extremely density, and introducing meaningful public space strategically throughout the building. The key issues included the response to dense/varied site context; public space integration; vertical circulation systems, public/private space, and sustainability.

The project site was the Wolf Point, Chicago, which is the location at the confluence of the North, South and Main Branches of the Chicago River in the present day Near North Side, Loop, and Near West Side community areas of Chicago. Using the framework of the DeCarbonization Plan, this comprehensive design studio seeked to design tall buildings which are positive additions to the city’s skyline visually, urbanistically, and environmentally. Students were in pairs, and each pair worked with tutors to establish a unique set of environmental Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) - a set of quantifiable goals which drove the design.

Urban Sustainability Index Project

Global Studio  |  2013

This semester-long studio examined what the term “sustainability” means on an urban scale. A question was posed: “What contributes most to the sustainability of cities?” Considering only the environmental sustainability of cities, the most sustainable city is most likely that which consumes fewer resources and emits fewer pollutants per capita. However, “sustainability” is the equilibrium point of three different aspects: social, economic, and environmental. 

This studio aimed to address three important questions: What if we could tap into Chicago’s latent potential by using the built environment as a carbon asset?; What if we could redefine energy as a commodity to be traded between buildings, blocks, cities?; and What if we could transform Chicago’s Loop into a net carbon-positive district? It was intended that the final result of the studio would be exhibited publically at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, located in the Santa Fe Building in downtown Chicago. Taking place in the building’s atrium, the exhibition was part of the “Chicago Model City” exhibit which featured a 25 x 35-foot scale model of downtown Chicago.

Tall & Green: Seoul Overseas Studio

Seoul, South Korea  |  2011

Students worked in pairs and were asked to undertake an urban study of the area to determine an appropriate response for both the program and design of a tall building that is inspired by the cultural, physical and environmental aspects of place. The site for this project was a real site being developed by Daelim Construction in the Seoul Forest district of the South Korean capital, not far from the Han River. The studio visited Seoul and engaged with the real issues of the site, city and culture. The client for the project was the real client for the redevelopment: Daelim Construction. The studio also had an engagement with students and professors at Korea University.

The Remaking of Mumbai

Mumbai, India  |  2010

For two years running, the studio traveled to Mumbai and worked with the community-based Remaking of Mumbai Federation (RoMF). The project was based on the very real situation that is the C-ward district of Mumbai – a dense, historic district that had seen no investment and is largely dilapidated. RoMF, a private/community-based organization in Mumbai, had been established with the sole aim of improving the urban standards of Mumbai, with a focus on the C-ward. 

The Remaking of Mumbai

Mumbai, India  |  2009

For two years running, the studio traveled to Mumbai and worked with the community-based Remaking of Mumbai Federation (RoMF). The project was based on the very real situation that is the C-ward district of Mumbai – a dense, historic district that had seen no investment and is largely dilapidated. RoMF, a private/community-based organization in Mumbai, had been established with the sole aim of improving the urban standards of Mumbai, with a focus on the C-ward. 

Typology for a Sustainable Urban Future

Chicago, IL, United States  |  2008

The site for this project was on the site of the proposed Chicago Spire by Santiago Calatrava, on the lake-front in Chicago. The brief asked for a mixed-use (predominantly residential) building of 60-100 stories in height, which makes fundamental decisions on form, layout, skin, material, construction and incorporated technologies so as to create a sustainable, ‘carbon-neutral’ tower which relates physically to place. The project began with a significant period of research (conducted in student pairs / small groups) – of site and of precedent; buildings and technologies – which informed the detailed programme for the building as well as strategies for both site and building.

The Anti-Isolationist Tower

London, United Kingdom  |  2006

Drawing on the success of the ‘Pavements in the Sky’ project of the previous year (2005), this project sets a similar challenge but now in the existing high-rise context of Canary Wharf. Assuming a date in the future and a push for a greater urban density, the programmatic brief requires the creation of a ‘new urban vision’, consisting of a series of new towers, linked into a skybridge network with the existing towers of Canary Wharf. Building programmes were derived directly from site study and research, with the majority of the towers looking to enrich the overtly commercial area through residential provision.

Pavements in the Sky

London, United Kingdom  |  2005

The subject for this project is the creation of a series of skyscrapers on different sites across the City of London, connected by a network of ‘skybridges’. The skybridge linkages break down the stereotype of the tall building as an isolationist icon, and offers rich experiential opportunities and fire evacuation efficiencies. Each student designed their tall building individually – deriving the programmatic brief from a study of site and precedent - and then worked collaboratively with peers on adjoining sites to design the skybridges.

The Minerva Tower

London, United Kingdom  |  2004

The subject for this project is a mixed-use tower in the City of London, at the St Boltolph's Street / Houndsditch junction. At the time, the site was being developed for a real tall building, the Minerva Tower, designed by Nicholas Grimshaw Architects. The studio schemes were required to accomodate prestigious office headquaters and residential apartments, along with ground floor and high level retail areas. Emphasis is placed on the tower's interface with the ground. 

The Heron Tower

London, United Kingdom  |  2003

The subject for this project is a mixed-use tower, combining prestigious office headquarters with residential apartments and retail-leisure space in one building. The site is 110 Bishopsgate, currently being developed by the Heron Corporation and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates for a real tall building to be completed in 2011. As such then, both the site and the programmatic brief for this project are real and high profile. The project included a 3-day fieldtrip to London to study site and precedents.