West Loop, Chicago (Unbuilt)


This speculative project explores the tension at the heart of the pulse-pounding car chase in the film The French Connection.

Widely considered the greatest chase scene in cinematic history, and a rarity because it involves an elevated train, the movie’s twist on the classic car chase is simultaneously bizarre and exhilarating. While The French Connection is set in New York City, here we focus on the interplay between architecture and Chicago’s El, an issue common to all cities with elevated transport.

The traditional architectural inclination is to shun the El by positioning buildings with their backs turned on this integral piece of Chicago infrastructure. Central to our project is an exterior mezzanine, used for entertainment that welcomes the train into the outside space, much as we would a boisterous guest to invigorate a party.

Composed of retail on grade and five floors of office space above the mezzanine, the project program recalls the material textures of an age when the El was first erected. It invites the viewer to imagine how a new architectural approach might exploit the El’s presence in the creation of more energetic spaces.

Please, though, hold the car chase.