Architectural Engineering & Design Minor
Designing for the Community

Luis ColladoLuis Collado and Jose Luis de la Fuente, of STL Architects, compare life to a play. The people are the actors and the set is the architecture. The design of a city can and will affect the way the actors feel and move about within it. Architects, when they build, have a responsibility to think of the community and the positive ways they can influence it. City architecture affects not only the people who people who use the buildings, but also anyone who sees them. It is in this manner, the intent of the project is more important than the outcome: if a building is designed with the people in mind, those people will sense that when they look at or enter the building.

Jose Luis de la FuenteLuis Collado and Jose Luis de la Fuente are both principals at STL Architects in Chicago. They teach regularly in Northwestern’s Architectural Engineering and Design program, sharing their design values with our students. Collado studied architecture at the Escuela Tenica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid and Harvard University Graduate School of Design. de la Fuente is a native of Madrid, Spain and studied architecture at the Architecture School in the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

Designing for the Community

Located in Bronzeville, adjacent to the Chicago Housing Authority Dearborn homes, lies a new, vibrant fieldhouse. When Collado and de la Fuente designed this facility, they wanted it to become a piece of urban sculpture, to be noble, to send a message of nobility and optimism to the community. They convinced the U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development and the Chicago Housing Authority, and ultimately the children of the community children, who were captivated by the iridescent stainless steel panels that coat the building that allowed them to see their reflections.

After the architects settled on the idea of a sculpture, they studied a number of sculptures in the city of Chicago, noting the use of bronze and other metals. In the process they discovered Millennium Forms, a local metal company, and their unique metal sheeting. Each panel is not painted, but dyed by chemical reaction. As a result, each panel refracts light differently, and the building changes appearance depending on the viewer’s perspective and position of the sun. The building itself became a dynamic structure that catches the eye of any passerby, establishing the fieldhouse as a community anchor for the Park District.

The interior structure is a revolutionary take on the construction of fieldhouses. In a single-story building with a sloping roof, they have included a 3,800 square foot basketball gymnasium with spectator seating, two multi-purpose community rooms with a shared pantry, offices, reception, and storage space. The entry lobby and corridor are large and include flexible seating for spontaneous gathering and events. Their design conveys a unified system and permanence.

Unique High Rise in a Unique Place

In our AED Design Studio III spring quarter course, Northwestern students design a skyscraper that could be built on the foundation cast for the unbuilt Chicago Spire, on Lake Shore Drive at the Chicago River. What students (and faculty) didn’t realize, was that Collado and de la Fuente, judges for the student competition, had entered an international competition for a high rise at that location. Tall buildings are always a challenge, but the 400 Lake Shore Drive location was arguably the most visible site in the city, calling for a special building.

The STL design, although not selected for implementation, was innovative in a number of ways, involving two buildings that appear like two pieces of quartz rising from the lake, with diagonal cuts to create the illusion of leaning. No floor was to be the same as the one above or below it, building in flexibility and creativity with each floor plan. Additionally, the exterior wall is extremely versatile enabling different patterns and expressions seamlessly integrating framed windows, full glass window walls, or a combination of both.

To control sway in this tall building would normally have called for a tuned mass damper at the top, shifting opposite to building movement. However, Collado and de la Fuente challenged the structural engineer, ARUP, to come up with an alternative: pneumatic dampers – large shock absorbers – installed at several points as construction proceeded upward, making it safer for workers as the building grew taller. This concept also open space at the top for a high-value penthouse condominium.

In designing 400 Lake Shore Drive, Collado and de la Fuente were able to able to deliver maximum creativity with a minimum amount of materials and cost that would have been a bold and elegant addition to the skyline.

An Airport Terminal for People

O’Hare Global Terminal, designed by Jeanne Gang, will be realized by the joint venture of Studio Gang, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, Corgan, Milhouse Engineering & Construction, Inc., and STLarchitects. The integrated team won an international architectural competition for the new terminal, which will replace the existing terminal 2 and will connect domestic flights non-stop to destinations around the world from under one roof.

The team, which is based in Chicago and combines the city’s exceptional local talent with international aviation expertise, has prioritized creating a terminal that reflects the unique culture, traditions, and diversity of their hometown. Like the confluence of the branching Chicago River, the design’s three volumes converge in a central hub that establishes a vibrant new neighborhood in the heart of O’Hare’s campus. At the center, a dramatic six-pointed glass Oculus, whose geometry references the Chicago flag, frames a vibrant new neighborhood that unfolds inside the terminal around an expansive Central Green.

Bringing Architecture to Students

Luis Collado and Jose de la Fuente design projects for the people in the communities where the structures are built. They want people to interact with their buildings. They want to positively influence the actors on their stage. The STL team brings this design philosophy to our students in the AED studio, enriching the connection between engineering, architecture, and the needs and feelings of the people they serve.