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“The forms of buildings and groups of buildings must, themselves, be adaptive. The cyclic variations of nature must be specifically recognized as the governing purpose for the design of an adaptive architecture that will embody a new aesthetic.” – Ralph Knowles, 1974


Heliomorphic Chicago imagines the radical revision of Chicago’s urban form through optimized solar performance. The project makes new history by presenting a pair of counterfactual futures—two Chicagos that might have been. These alternative visions are modeled through specific parameters of solar access and ecological performance. The project presents alternative potentials for many of Chicago’s iconic buildings as opposing pairs, optimized in relation to either social equity or sustainable energy. Heliomorphic Chicago posits a pair of alternative histories for Chicago’s collective urban identity as derived from the simple, yet intractable, opposition of zero-sum economies —solar equity on one hand and solar energy on the other.


The speculative modeling of Heliomorphism is disseminated through a range of disciplinary audiences, including academic conferences and international exhibitions. Exhibited in the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2017) and recalibrated to reflect the conditions of towers.

Project Team: Charles Waldheim, Aziz Barbar, Matthew Moffitt, Daniel Quesada Lombó, Amir Karimpour, Helen Kongsgaard, Fletcher Phillips, Christopher Reznich, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, Dana Shaikh Solaiman, Isabel Strauss, and Jessy Yang.

Partners: Siena Scarff / Siena Scarff Design.

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