Fixing a Hole Left by Starchitect Calatrava

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Santiago CalatravaWhat to do about Chicago's embarrassing Big Dig?

The Chicago Spire, a 150-story tower condo tower, was designed by Santiago Calatrava for a site overlooking Lake Michigan. The cocky, corkscrew shaped building was expected to cost more than $1 billion, which, even for Calatrava (whose projects have been known to go over budget), was a lot. But the developers ran out of money, and all they have to show for their efforts is a giant hole -- 76 feet deep and 110 feet in diameter -- in the ground. (Calatrava says he is owed more than $11 million for his design work.)

So what's to become of the hole, a literal architectural depression? The Chicago Architectural Club is asking architects (and architecture students) to put on their spire-shaped thinking caps. "Once the motor of real-estate speculation has stalled, what can we use to propel ourselves, and the discipline, forward?" asked the Club, announcing an international competition. Blair Kamin, a Chicago architecture critic, asked the same question on his blog last year, and the answers came pouring in. (Responses included: a scuba diving tank; "pudding"; the Obama presidential library)

The Club will accept entries until May 3, after which a panel of judges (including star Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, designer of a new and beloved condo tower called Aqua) will choose the winners.

The competition is named Mine the Gap, though they could have lifted a title from the Guggenheim Museum's current show, Contemplating the Void.

The first place winner will receive $3,500. No word yet on whether Calatrava plans to enter.
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