The Lakefront Kiosks That Won’t Be

Life is full of winners and losers.  That’s just how it is.  Yesterday we showed you four new kiosks that will be built along the Chicago lakefront for the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which starts in October.  We’d like to show you all of the entries, but that’s simply not possible since there were hundreds of them from 40 different countries.  But what we can show you are those project that almost made it.  Here are the finalists and the honorable mentions (text supplied by each of the teams):



Behind the Curtain

Thomas Kelley, Ryan Palider, Chuck Paros

In terms of function, the existing kiosks efficiently meet the needs of the various vendors that supply goods and services to the millions of visitors to Chicago’s lakefront each year. All summer long these modest huts are alive with energy, but for nine months of the year these once-active spaces are shuttered to form a ghost town—a constant reminder that the magic that is summer in Chicago is long gone. This proposal for a new lakefront kiosk doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel in terms of supplying the millions of visitors to Chicago’s lakefront with goods and services. It functions as easily and as efficiently as do the existing kiosks. The difference lies in its reinvention of the way the public interacts with it, and the way it remains an active element along the lakefront year-round.


Ong Ker-Shing and Joshua Comaroff

The form of this building is an attempt to express Chicago’s unlikeliness: that chutzpah, the strange emergence of something intricate and sophisticated in a hostile environment. It is a gradual transformation from a blank (vaguely block-like) mass into something more architectural, more refined, more domestic. On its surface, a pattern of shingles “fades” in, routed from plywood panels to increasing depth. For the Biennial, we had imagined it as a kind of micro-venue for local music and drinks, spilling out like many of the famous jazz and blues venues of the South Side. At other warm times, it might serve as an information booth or a food stand. In the winter, it is abandoned and takes on a strange form of solidity—a frozen mass, or solid object, that appears to be only half architectural and beyond the range of human inhabitation.

The Lakefront Kiosk

TRU Architects

The Lakefront Kiosk is a unique architecture made of simple structural elements. A translucent free-span roof rests on two structures, which house the kiosk and a storage space. The entire construction is built of ordinary squared timber battens, which are recycled through the process of building.

The main space of the kiosk is the roofed terrace, which allows for various types of use. The kiosk can transform into a bar, a cinema, or a space for lectures and discussions. When the kiosk is closed, the terrace provides a sheltered space open to the public.

The Lakefront Kiosk is a low-cost building that shows the constructive potential and the beauty of timber constructions. Beyond that, it is an example of material-saving and ecologically worthwhile building methods.

Honorable Mentions

little kiosk artistically considered


The “little kiosk artistically considered” lives in limbo: it is an irrelevant monument. It is as much a kiosk as it is a proud piece of architecture.

The kiosk has a grand timber roof, which recalls the sharp lines of Prairie architecture and underlines the vistas to the park and Lake Michigan. Under the roof, a glass box surprises with its verticality. It hosts all kinds of cultural and commercial programs, and features a marble column.

The kiosk is made of familiar elements assembled in an unorthodox manner. It invites the visitor to reconsider its relationship to the city and to architecture as a necessarily referential discipline.

Its architectural language is clear and honest: anyone can dismount and remount it, both literally and mentally, but its poetry lies in the fact that it never truly belongs—like a child lost in a city of adults.

The Wall

Benedict Esche, Blazej Peter Trybala, Florian Schrag

A building should be poetry! Our proposal consists of one materialized idea: the wall. Our fascination starts with ancient ruins and temples—objects that are destroyed, but their idea still lives in our memories. Many years after deconstruction, especially because of the short life of the kiosk, people will still remember sitting behind the wall, protected from the hot sun and noisy environment.

The long black wall separates two worlds: the hectic and crowded street and the beautiful and relaxing sea. Here, separated and far away from the routines and nuisances of daily life, the wilderness of the ocean becomes a fenced garden. Approaching the object from the street, you perceive the wall as a thin extruded line that defines natural and artificial environment. On the beach-site the object is separated into fragments. Like a ruin, it creates an in-time and still open atmosphere. The ruin invites the visitor to linger awhile.

For the object we propose two options. The first is a massive object, fully created out of layered wood panels. For this option, we would collaborate with a sponsor from a wood company. During the drying process, wooden panels get stapled and have to stand for a certain time anyway, so why not use them for constructing a kiosk? In that way, the large-scale object can be realized with minimum cost (only transportation, construction, and eventual damage). The second option is a more fragmented ruin, consisting only of the inner kiosk, which is constructed in wood, while the rest of the body is created with textile elements.

Ambient Light

Guillaume Mazars

Waterfronts are special places. A meeting point between earth and sea, the horizon is exposed. More than elsewhere the sky is present; it illuminates, and color permeates the place. Ambient Light aims to exacerbate this feeling by framing the views and accentuating the light of the moment.

A translucent fabric filter diffuses the light, revealing the average color of the sky. This veil delimits the space and generates privacy. The fabric masks some of the context to better reveal its brightness.
Inside, a suspended fabric ring provides shade. The center of the roof is open to expose the sky. All you can see and connect with is the horizon and the sky.

The veil creates a sense of intimacy within the space, be it a market, café, cinema, or exhibition. The space is versatile. A miniature piazza is created.

Author: Editor

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

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