Burnham Prize Competition, Chicago Architecture Biennial

Chicago, IL

For centuries, the dome has been the architectural signifier of political assembly. From government buildings to national monuments to civic institutions, large open interior spaces beneath domed ceilings have long been conceptualized as the default spatial conditions of congregation, democracy, and publicness. The symbolic spherical void, similar to an empty public square carved from the dense urban fabric, has been charged with meaning founded on an inherent potential for assembly.

Today, the typologies, scales, and modes of assembly are multiple and diverse, and the need to enable them is more than ever. Social and political discourses seek new venues for productive conversation, critique, and dissent. These conditions demand a spatial alternative to the singular void under the dome – that which can accommodate multiple and different scales of assembly.

This proposed intervention in St. Stephen’s Church reinterprets the void under the dome as a space for Many Other Assemblies, ranging from the scale of individual contemplation, to that of the shared conversation and debate, to that of a large demonstration.