▶ “Ambicioso” Plan Unveiled for Landmark Downtown Museum Complex


It seems like every architecture firm in Chicago has invoked Daniel Burnham’s signature words at one time or another:

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood

At this point it’s become cliché, because the quote is always trotted out when a design differs from the accepted norm to justify the architect’s imagination, saying by proxy, “I know it looks wacky, but Uncle Dan says it’s fine.”  Because for some reason we’ve come to a point as a society and a city where architects feel they have to emasculate their designs and apologize for being creative.

There were no apologies at the opening gala of the 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival last weekend, where JGMA’s design for the proposed Ibero-American Tower was unveiled.  The International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago wants to build an ambitious, colorful, standout complex on what appears to be the block bounded by LaSalle, Huron, Erie, and Wells Streets.

Drawing of the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago

Drawing of the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago. Still frame from JGMA animation.

The building would include the following components:

  • Administrative offices
  • Ballroom
  • Spanish/Portuguese Language Institute
  • Museum
  • Bureau of Culture and Tourism
  • Restaurant/Piano Bar
  • Latino Cinematheque
  • Exhibition Gallery
  • 1,000-seat theater
  • 500-seat theater
  • 300-seat theater
  • 200-seat theater
  • Kids’ corner
  • Coffee shop/gift shop/book shop

The design is unprecedented for downtown, but not necessarily for Chicago as a whole, or Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects.  You’ll remember it is also the creative force behind the recently-opened, and decidedly breathtaking, Avondale classroom building for NEIU.  JGMA has a habit of designing striped, stunning, serpentine structures that actually get built.

It’s those stripes that certainly call attention to this design.  To the uninformed eye, they reflect a rainbow progression over the curling course of the building.  In reality, they are sampled from the colors of the flags of all the nations of Latin America.  Check out the video above to see the animated explanation.

So, what’s it going to take to get this thing built?  Well, money.  The Latino Cultural Center is trying to line up sponsors and donors for the project.  We’re not sure if it owns the land that was depicted in the video rendering yet.  But at least it’s not asking to use a slice of a public park for free.

Location: The block bounded by LaSalle, Huron, Erie, and Wells Streets, River North


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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  1. With SF building a new addition to their modern art museum and the Whitney in NYC getting a new home on the Highline, this will put Chicago back on the map.
    Looks creative, unique and interesting, build it.
    Its OK to think outside the box, especially with a museum.
    This will help define a design district.

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  2. I wouldn’t call this outside the box…

    I find this random, free-form stuff very uncreative and banal. In retrospect, when every city has been doing it for years (which they have) it won’t be so celebrated.

    Chicago should be the most discerning and discriminant city when it comes to modern architecture. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Let other cities go loco. Chicago should be more mature. It will greatly benefit us someday.

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    • Frank, call it what you will, but it’s definitely inventive for Chicago. A building like this won’t take anything away from the other beautiful showcases of architectural excellence we have spread throughout the city. If anything, it will only help to take us into the next age instead of erecting yet another faceless glass box. Kudos to International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago for thinking bold, and I hope they raise the funds quickly!

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