Spring 2019 4 Thursdays – 497-406: Cultural Infrastructure: Prototyping Interventions for the Future of Our Pedways

Meeting Day/Time
Thursdays from 6:25 to 9:05 pm
In collaboration with the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC)
Skylar Moran (Undergraduate Education with expertise in architecture) (smoran@iit.edu) and Dana Taylor (Undergraduate Education with expertise in architecture) (dtaylor11@iit.edu)
Appropriate Majors
All interested students are welcome.

The last century of travel, transit, and transportation innovation has resulted not in a trail of novel infrastructural curiosities but a field, in which multiple infrastructure topologies coexist. While some ideas failed to achieve broad adoption, successive generations re-examine them through new lenses. Designers, planners, and politicians now revisit these existing infrastructures through the lense of “sustainability”—of land use, of local economy, and of our behavior patterns. Motor vehicle traffic (and storage) in Chicago’s Central Business District continues to be among the most challenging sustainability issues the City of Chicago faces. The Chicago Pedway system has been successful only in limited use cases (as shelter during inclement weather, or between transit stations and government centers), but in it there remains potential to be part of the solution to reduce vehicle traffic, and to be more than a network of tubes and tunnels.

The Chicago Pedway system dates back to the early 1950’s, when cities around the world explored ways to separate pedestrians from motorists using multi-level infrastructure. It has been expanded in several growth spurts resulting from planning studies and modernization efforts, and it occupies private, government, and public-owned properties. The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) is conducting an ongoing project to revitalize the Chicago Pedway system, working with City government officials, local business owners, and residents. Barriers to increasing adoption of the Pedway by both local and visiting pedestrians include visibility, accessibility, wayfinding, policy variations among landowners, perceived safety, and environmental quality.

The goals of this IPRO project are to evaluate the conditions associated with existing cultures; to identify barriers to those which are emergent or forthcoming; to propose new infrastructure addressing those barriers, prototype, and test on-site; to record all processes and results, and present documentation. The success of this project will be measured by the breadth of initial investigations, the depth of proposed interventions and tests, and the delivery of the body of work. This project builds on a body of work accumulated during previous semesters; future semesters may continue the work achieved here, or operate parallel to it. Multiple semesters’ works may be collected as a larger knowledge base.

 “Maintain in conditions suitable for growth” – Throughout this IPRO project, the team will employ this definition of “culture” to evaluate suitability of conditions for democratic use of our public places. To begin, the team will evaluate the conditions of the Chicago Pedway system relative to similar infrastructure case studies, and the public policy eras which brought about its current conditions. The IPRO team will then propose future cultural interventions based on both shifting local needs and desires, and global patterns. The team will develop small scale prototypes and test for effectiveness. To conclude, the IPRO team will publish and present our findings and recommendations to ELPC for use in its project with the City of Chicago.

All students will:

  • learn strategies for collecting, analyzing, and critiquing cultural data.
  • visit relevant sites, document conditions, and conduct interviews
  • present findings both as individuals and in collaboration
  • program a work schedule with regular progress measurements
  • make recommendations based on findings and feedback
  • propose new ways to deploy findings for future use
  • publish records of processes and results.
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