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Columbia College Chicago
The Design
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The Design

618 S Michigan Avenue Façade

All images and language by Gensler.

618 S Michigan timeline


The Concept

The design solution aims to mediate between the historic context of the Michigan Avenue street wall and the contemporary building to the north of the property. Our goal is to expose the building’s past in a modern way. To achieve this, we have utilized the digital ceramic printing process to overlay an abstract image of the original facade of the building onto a new energy-efficient curtain wall system.



The Image to Abstraction

All that remains of the original facade are a few photographs. The team mainpulated these photographs digitally to create an abstracted “ghost” image of the buildings past to appear on the facade.

image to abstraction


Patterns from Typologies

The team went through a rigorous process of developing and testing a series of pattern typologies.

patterns from topologies



It became critical that the pattern could be read at different scales and offer different meanings. The overall pattern conveys the image of the historic facade, but on a closer reading, the pictogram pattern of the bird speaks to the context of the building and it’s adjacency to Grant Park and Lake Michigan, a major migratory route for songbirds. The bird is a symbol representing nature, but it also acts as a protective screen to migrating birds.




The pattern was tested at various scales, opacities, tones, and on various media.



Testing Results

Mock-ups of the final pattern and color combinations were tested in situ. The frit covers approximately 46% of the glazing area, reducing the overall solar gain of the facade significantly. The pattern is also optimized to make the facade more easily detectable by migrating birds.

testing results