Uncanny collisions

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Hochgesang, Camden
Keogh, Sarah
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Thesis (B. Arch.)
College of Architecture and Planning
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The Uncanny is the propensity for the familiar to turn on its owners, to suddenly become defamiliarized as if in a dream. Personal and collective experience, place, and sociocultural landscapes all potentially contain uncanny qualities which can weave into the larger fabric of the built and erased environment with powerful implications for latent architectural narratives and experiential program. The Midwest’s industrial past, containing dissonant historic experiences, erased memory, and framed narratives, presents a ripe canvas for the exploration of these themes. This design proposal for a new narrative hub utilizes the ghostly remains of Chicago’s largest steel mill, South Works, a monumental corpse of the Midwest’s industrial boom. Common throughout rustbelt states, the site remains a palimpsest containing embedded remnants of its former program: massive concrete ore walls spanning over 2,500 feet, mysterious tunnels covered in layers of graffiti, and moorings for ships long forgotten. Uncanny Collisions is a master plan proposal positioning a series of countering narratives in dialogue through architectural intervention and experiential moments. The design explores the presentation of narratives in three categories intimately relevant to definitions of South Works: anthropocentric narratives, narratives of material movement, and narratives of nature concerning ruin and reclamation. Each narrative speaks through a formal, material, and experiential language, layered in a manner that results in moments of intersection. These collisions form a dialogue of effect and response. Anthropocentric narratives, physically fragmented by the wall and symbolically by the many dissonant human narratives of South Works, manifests as an experiential pathway. Steel and material movement is conveyed through cross circulation as a series of structural follies, recalling the monstrous rig structures which carried iron ore and other raw materials across the site. These languages layer in a maze-like way which invests a quality of discovery and individual wayfinding through the site. The language of natural narratives also weaves into the greater master plan, existing as a temporal essence: desire paths worn into the landscape over time, and formal effects at intersections with other narrative moments. A key element of this narrative hub proposal is its integration of a core anchor program which seeks to reconnect the community of South Chicago back to an industrial landscape which was once intimately woven into the urban fabric. Included are narrative adjacent programs: theater, gallery, archive, and multi-purpose spaces. This program exists in a central void, symbolic of the missing memory in the story of South Works. The landscape, while scarred, reaches up sympathetically in response to the violent cut, forming these programmatic anchor spaces in a combined language at the collision of landscape and void. Uncanny Collisions and the experiences it proposes will utilize the uncanny qualities of the site and reframe the dissonant narratives which are embedded in the industrial patchwork of South Works, Chicago. The master plan, anchor program, the preservation of the site’s industrial landscape, and the uncanny experiences it generates all combine to form a proposal that is cohesive, yet intentionally fragmented and unfinished, leaving the design hopeful, looking forward to future development in the continuing story of South Works and the greater rust-belt region.