grou serra architecture

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The Uptown Music Institute

Instructor Thomas Hoepf
With Marsha Agard & Alexander Beckman

The Uptown neighborhood in Chicago is a culturally rich and vibrant community, with an amazing historical background. The neighborhood functions in a state of equilibrium where all the different elements bring something very specific to the overall system.

Our project called for a musical school, that not only would requestion the future of education but also how we could integrate within a musically rich context.

Given the site we had, our approach for this project was to interact with the neighborhood in a non-invasive proposal that would highlight the surroundings and let them express themselves without drawing unnecessary attention.

With that in mind, we developed a massing strategy that gave us the liberty we needed in order to fulfill our ideas and yet represented the concept clearly. With that came the idea of hybridity. Not only relating to massing, but also the programming, the implementation, the dispersion.

Our building would be a hybrid solution for a hybrid condition. Monoliths against the transparency of a curtain wall. Clear, concrete blocks, against smaller dispersed programmatic boxes.

Three main concrete blocks house the three programmatic elements of the project; a music school, a music library and a residential component. Everything else is dispersed in between those three boxes in an almost chaotic way. Freedom of movement, freedom of program and freedom of spaces.

All the remaining program being within this hybrid membrane, a completely open plan, a screen surrounds most of it. Creating some privacy for the activities taking place inside, while still letting an incredible amount of light in.

These elements together, the concrete monoliths, the curtain wall membrane, and the dispersed black boxes, create an hybrid condition, that perfectly reflects and echoes the situation in the uptown neighborhood; a complex, extremely lively and diverse culture where everything and anything can take place.