Superpopulated Edgewater 


Edgewater, located on the far Northside, is one of the many Chicago neighbourhoods losing population.

To revitalize this community, we propose a new kind of beach urbanism, merging dune ecology with the city fabric, opening access to the lakefront and creating a new waterfront lifestyle along Lake Michigan.

Major public destinations (market hall, dune haus and the beach) are stitched together by a market street and dune walk, giving residents and visitors an iconic walk-able connection from the water’s edge to their destinations.

New infill development focuses on three mixed-use typologies: high-rise towers, mid-rise housing, and a dune haus. Inverting the typical Chicago condition, high rises set back from the water’s edge to take advantage of transit, while the mid and low-rise development steps down to the water – opening up Edgewater to the Lake.

The architecture of district reinforces the beach lifestyle. Shaping of the towers and mid-rises are inspired by boat construction, with sweeping forms that distinguish and attract. Buildings are lifted and pulled off the ground to allow the dune landscape to roll through at grade – residents can walk from the water to their units in bare feet.

The tower uses a self-shading facade system with a diagrid pattern – nested within each unit has its own private sand-balcony to allow for year-round use. The tower also caters to many different lifestyles with five different units types supporting students, seniors or families.

The nostalgic atmosphere of our drawings attempt to conjure memories of Edgewater back when it was at its peak population. The colours, composition, and 1950’s entourage are used to give a sense of a vintage beach postcard – but reimagined for the 21st century.

We envision a super populated Edgewater to be both dense and diverse. It will become a new destination for Chicago by bringing distinctive community life back to the area and transforming its relationship with Lake Michigan.


Who influences you graphically?

We looked at a lot of photographs by a photographer named Maria Svarbova. Her swimming pool series had the type of atmosphere and colours we were trying to achieve graphically. In addition, we also looked at a lot of early 20th century beach postcards done by various artists. Some old photographs of Edgewater neighbourhood from 1940-50s also helped to visualize the scenes specifically.

What defined the graphic language through which you represent the project?

The nostalgic atmosphere of our drawings attempts to conjure memories of Edgewater back when it was at its peak population. The colours, composition, and 1950’s entourage are used to give a sense of a vintage beach postcard – but reimagined for the 21st century.

What role do the silhouettes play?

The purpose of silhouettes was to show how our new destination neighbourhood will be experienced.

Most of the entourage we used for the drawings were from old Pepsi cola posters from 1950s. It was to achieve the feeling of beach community as well as for the revival of the high density in Edgewater.

The names of each drawings are also inspired from the entourage in the drawing. Rather than naming them as ‘Amenity level’ or ‘Market view’, we titled them as “Did someone say free food?” or “They have the best strawberry jams” which tells the stories of what the figures are doing in the drawings. That way, our drawings strengthen the experience and bring the aliveness into the scene. It helps viewers to focus more on users and their experiences rather than the building itself.

“sandy brunch time”
“sandy brunch time”

What was your work process in terms of programs used?

The most crucial part we focused on was to match the quality of the colour and atmosphere as we wanted to achieve. We made a big archive of photographs, paintings, movies, graphic design and architecture renderings based on what we imagined. Using those images as our main colour palette, the entourages were edited and added to make it like hand-drawing postcard figures.

For the basic 3d modelling and the render views, we used Rhino and Rhino vray. With that image as a base, we adjust the colour tone and add some figures to match the quality of beach-urbanism feeling.

From interior to exterior, what defined and dictate the means through which you frame each image?

We try to show in each scene what life would be like if it could be summer all year long in Chicago. In the two interior scenes, we depict a frozen Chicago winter in the outside but the party continues in the shelter of the tower community, where neighbours are gathering together to have a small potluck or children are playing in the balcony sandbox while grandma watches from the comfort of her bed.

What were the challenges when framing the interior when compared to the exterior? To what extent did your perception of the interior define the items represented within?

The interior shots had to really show off the unique aspects of the architecture itself while the exterior shots were really about the masterplan of the neighbourhood. The challenges we faced as a team was to match the post-card theme in each image. They all had to have the same language but also show different experiences at different seasons and scales. They all also had to sell the idea of living in that neighbourhood.