The centennial of Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, President Barack Obama’s election, and Mayor Richard M. Daley's retirement are all landmark events in Chicago's recent history. The city has reemerged as a global center, confirmed by the January 2011 visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao , which was his only other scheduled stop in the U.S. besides Washington D.C. In light of these events, this speculative urban design proposal envisions the center of Chicago as a center of the world – what the sociologist Saskia Sassen has called a “spatial moment of power.” The site for the project is the Chicago Circle – a large highway interchange located in the center of the city, on the western edge of the downtown Loop. This site is the proposed, but unrealized core of Burnham’s plan, which was to be a new Civic Center for the city. Instead of a monument to democracy, it eventually became the third most congested traffic interchange in the U.S. and responsible for the loss of 25 million driving hours per year. Chicago’s downtown has expanded beyond the Loop in the past two decades, to the north, south, and west. In that time, the Circle has become an increasingly problematic void surrounded by new building density and massive transportation infrastructure including three highways, the CTA transit blue line, an interstate bus station, Union Rail Terminal, and the Chicago River. Thus the myriad possibilities for redevelopment support the idea of a scenario planning project in which diverse futures can be explored for the site.



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