How the Windy City is Also A Smart City


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How do you check out the food inspection ratings of restaurants? How can you check out recent vandalism scores of neighborhoods for someone-who-has-never-seen-the-snow-before who’s apartment-hunting? Government officials and industry execs in Illinois are working together to get this kind of information out there.

At a panel presentation last week about how to become a smart city, three technologists including two municipal executives discussed the different ways governments are pushing the idea of “smart cities” through independent ventures, and business partnerships.

The panel, organized by the Illinois chapter of the U.S. Green Building council, comprised Tom Schenk, the Chicago chief data officer, Hardik Bhatt, head of the state’s IT department, and Steven Fifita, executive director of City Digital, part of the UI Labs organization.

The moderator, Joseph Svachula, ComEd’s vice president of smart grids and technology, shared some current initiatives in cities around the United States, and then brought up the micro-grid being developed in Bronzeville and on the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Bronzeville, he noted, is a “community of the future”. Commonwealth ComEd, the largest electric utility in Illinois, received federal grants to build a smart, “micro” grid system that gives residents and business owners more options and control with their utilities.

Hardik Bhatt, Secretary Designate of the IT Department of the State of Illinois, discussed a smart strategy, under challenging constraints. He pointed out that the plan for the State is to transform the operational organizing of IT businesses and customer service by digitally connecting these into a “smart” national model.

Tom Schenk, from the City of Chicago, discussed examples of user-friendly, open data extracted from the daily work of city employees. Schenk is in charge of the city’s data portal, which Chicago Cityscape uses extensively. In addition to datasets listing building permits, violations, and building violation court hearings, the portal has information about Divvy locations and station usage, towed car locations, and street sweeping schedules. Some of this information is as much for city workers to take advantage of as it is for citizens.

The portal puts data onto more devices, and into the hands of more city workers. City officials can start to predict patterns — say, about where rat populations will grow, or when e.coli. levels at the beach are expected to rise— rather than wait for residents to send complaints.

Predictions could help city inspectors discover violations faster, or improvise deployment of police officers at city events. It doesn’t hurt that it also makes Chicago an example for other cities to follow.

Steven Fifita of Citi Digital, a subsidiary of UI Labs, explained how the company plans to close the gap between innovation and commercialization by solving the challenges with cities and governments as partners.

He emphasizes the fact that Citi Digital needs to unlock meaningful value in every stage of work. An example was “smart green pilot teams” monitoring with tech companies that included Microsoft and AECOM. Better solutions resulted in underground infrastructure mapping which improves traffic and digital imaging and processing which lead to efficent results.

The Windy City has been noted as one of the most aggressive cities in adopting a user-friendly, predictive data portal for improving safer, cleaner, and smarter infrastructural measures, and each of the panelists is playing their part to motivate the city and state to utilize more partnerships to address current challenges and adapt to future ones.


Something Old. Something New. Something Borrowed.


Image by Nathalie J Siegel

While digital agencies, Razorfish, and 1871 modernize the feel of the iconic, Art Deco fortress, the Merchandise Mart brings in its rich past of a former Native American trading post, by hosting international luxury retail trade shows. A former leather factory warehouse turned SoHo House brings its rich heritage by designing an open, lofty gym with a professional boxing ring, leather upholstered furnishings and vintage leather equipment, These are examples of preserving the past with the present and the future.
The Mart recently held the annual Chicago Design Summit hosted by industry trendsetters and top-shelf publication editors. A panel discussion entitled, The Design, Development, and Sustainability in Chicago, involved topics on designing consciously for the future and preserving what’s old and at stake.

Andrea Mills, editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, moderated this high-energy discussion. An impressive collection of speakers included Franck Nataf, co-owner of family generation line, Exquisite Surfaces, Summer Thornton, owner of Summer Thornton Design, and Jeff Shapack, CEO of Shapack Partners.

Nataf, co-owner of family generation line, Exquisite Surfaces, graciously hosted this discussion at his showroom. He travels the world with his immediate family to unchartered lands in finding versatile materials that have a well-kept history in its appearance. Once salvaged, these materials would be handcrafted and reproduced naturally by local artisans. Having access to a wild mix of material outsourcing helps develop smart, natural ways in sustainable design.

Thornton, another speaker, voted by local design magazines as a “Rising Star” and as “Chicago’s Best Transitional Designer”, is known for her bold and colorful work. Whether in environments of Lincoln Park or Telluride, Colorado, the firm tries to educate and set an example of long-term, sustainability for clients, the community, and for the public at large.

One of Shapack’s projects that face-lifted the Fulton Market area was the Soho House. For example, the historic water tower enclosure, in the back of the building, was not code-compliant according to engineer walk thru’s. The structural plank supports were removed and repurposed as a lobby mural. While more expensive, the firm focused on re-celebrating the time period for materials that had a story, including saving a Neo-Classical portico.

All in all, these cool tastemakers of design enjoyed educating and enlightening the audience on smart, dynamic trends in sustainable design.

Written by Nathalie J Siegel

Congress for New Urbanism Charter Awards Book

Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Charter Awards Book 2014
Award of Merit, Best Block category, Market Square Place, Pittsburgh, PA, Page 20

Awards recognize design excellence of projects per Charter categories of walkable urbanism. This book is placed on coffee tables and desks of governmental leaders and at college libraries. (Edited by Editor) 

Market Square Place, page 20  Image linkCNU

Luxury Interior Bath Rooms

Design Journalist

5. Florida Designer Homes MagazineDesigner BathroomsFebruary 2013 Volume 2 No. 6, Page 23 – 25 Creative ways to give character and a theme to a traditional bathroom.

Hamptons-StyleLuxury. Relax. Peace. Imagine repeating these words to yourself in a remote interior space with no mobile reception.

You may enter the “unknown” with a cup of chocolate espresso and absorb all touches of dark mahogany hardwood.  Textures would be free of voids, just as smooth as perfect snow-capped peaks out west in Utah.  You would start collecting photos of espresso mahogany vanities and accents from Pottery Barn.  Digging for dark chocolate fabrics so rich that you would be craving a Hershey’s bar!  This collaborative effort would help bring your perfect space to reality.

But if you grew up on the island of Palm Beach and just returned from Fourth of July fireworks in Southampton, you would imagine bringing back French…

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Urban Design Forum New York Competition

Design Journalist


What will these new habits and technologies mean for the shape of the city? Will ridesharing reduce the need for parking and unlock new opportunities for development? How will autonomous vehicles affect the design of our streets? Could our dense city become a bicycle boomtown? And will new transportation options pull support away from our historic transit network? Help us craft a vision for the future of mobility in New York City. How would you build a more accessible, equitable, and sustainable city? How would you improve New York’s streets, transportation networks, and built fabric in order to create a more accessible, sustainable, and equitable city?
Urban Design Forum Competition Link
onward-callforideas (PDF)

Imagine one of the most walk able streets where all dynamics are naturally controlled by pedestrians, tourists and local natives of the island of New York. No…

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Chicago Design Museum Partnership with DCASE for the Great Ideas of Humanity

29 August 2016

For Immediate Release:

CHICAGO—August 29 2016

The Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM) is proud to announce a partnership with
Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) to showcase the
Great Ideas of Humanity throughout Loop Link locations.
The Great Ideas of Humanity series was inspired by Mortimer Adler’s
monumental Great Books of the Western World series—431 works by 71 authors
—based on ideas of the Western Canon. The Encyclopedia Britannica published
this series in 1952.

Inspired by the Great Books and with a desire to engage the public in cultural
conversation, the Container Corporation of America (CCA) sponsored the
advertising campaign, the Great Ideas of Western Man. For 25 years, CCA
commissioned celebrated artists and designers to create artwork inspired by
these scholars. Following this campaign, the Great Ideas provided a base for
notable figures including Paul Rand and René Magritte to bring attention to
philosophic scholars from the Great series, including Mark Twain and Theodore

Modifying and updating for today’s generation, ChiDM renewed this historical
series. Thus, the Great Ideas of Humanity (GIH) was born. Our initiative is to
inspirationally cross-pollinate contemporary artists’ ideas and philosophies with
quotable thinkers from the Middle Ages and beyond through a series of graphic
design works.

The Chicago Design Museum has created a poster series for the Dearborn
corridor stations showcasing the Great Ideas of Humanity series, highlighting the
civic and cultural significance of eight key sites in the Loop. The images will
include architectural points of interest, photographs and/or historic stories.

The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) initiative involves public transit (bus rapid)
infrastructural modes to improve the Loop area between neighborhoods and the
Central Business District. Traffic flow, less congested streets and more sidewalk
space are examples of plans to uphold the initiative. Several bus rapid transit
lanes are being developed in multiple arteries of the Loop.

The list of artists and designers include ChiDM’s executive directors Tanner
Woodford and Matthew Terdich, as well as Bibliotheque, Ivan Chermayeff, Hugh
Dubberly, Veronica Corzo-Durchardt, and LaShun Tines. This cultural art initiative represents the partnership between DCASE, the City of Chicago, and the Chicago Design Museum.

For press enquiries, image and interview requests, please contact:
About ChiDM: The Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM) strengthens design culture and builds community by facilitating the exchange of knowledge through dynamic experiences.
About DCASE: The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is a department under the jurisdiction of the City of Chicago geared towards enhancing the arts and culture of Chicago. The department also focuses on the non-profit arts sector and independent artist businesses, all guiding for future economic growth and community-wide outreach for the city and by the city.

Open Swim, Money

Open Swim, Money: Working with Sponsors


Tanner Woodford, executive director of Chicago Design Museum moderated a well-attended panel discussion at the Lake FX Summit, held at the Chicago Cultural Center. This was a large free convention for young artists and emerging entrepreneurs. Open Swim, Money: Working with Sponsors, was the title of the seminar, with selected panelists of diverse industries.

Tanner introduces himself and his role with Chicago Design Museum (ChiDM), a community-focused organization that shapes the living design community of Chicago. He then turns the conversation to Ashley Galloway, a lead market manager for Societe Perrier, which was re-branded from Perrier and now is a multi-art media, cultural source.  Mirrorball, a creative agency represents this lifestyle brand. Matthew Gowan, a branch manager at PNC Bank, shares his history of event planning efforts through a banking institution. Marguerite Singson, a field marketing manager for KIND Healthy Snacks, brings her brand to us, as consumers, by passing around fruit bar samples with an attached business card.

Tanner modeled the seminar on how three diverse companies build their brand, maintain partnerships, and give back to our community.

Firstly, he begins with how does successful collaboration work? Ashley explains that her target is art institutions and in securing long-term partnerships with annual events including the Art EXPO and Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Their agenda is to creatively enhance the human experience by re-thinking the way brands affect our lives through advertising, social media, and philanthropy.

Matthew explains PNC’s charitable philosophy in how they successfully collaborate by building fellowships, setting up funds for early learning programs and research, as well as grant-planning programs.

Marguerite discusses how KIND successfully collaborates by establishing partnerships and providing consumers with samples as an interactive healthy experience and as a “kind act” in impacting people’s lives.

Next, Tanner asks how do these companies attract sponsors? Mirrorball Agency bases selection on the type of sponsorship benefits offered and the intensity of its programming involved.  As PNC hosts fundraisers with partnered sponsors, the demographics of these sponsors and their common connections attract similar demographics of potential new sponsors attending their events. KIND has a website link where you enter a charity cause and apply and “sell” for a potential sponsorship opportunity.

Lastly, Tanner asks how these companies achieve monetary success. The agency maximizes their approach by targeting Chicago, as a growing city allowing for tremendous sponsor growth. The bank sets up shareholder contracts for future planning and focuses on how much value can a charity support them in return.  The health bar builds strategies around their local demographic research. As strategies change, their reps must stay intact and think ahead for the next plan.

Nice job done in sharing with the Summit audience how a mixture of industries can contribute to society and gain long-term value for their company brand!

Concrete Jungle


The term “concrete jungle” gives off a juxtaposed impression where each opposing word complements each other. Niles Eldredge and Sidney Horenstein use the magnificence of New York City as a case study to show how a city can survive with a support system while deterring the system simultaneously, in the book Concrete Jungle. As people crave the city flavor, they subconsciously destroy the fabric by expanding and living on unnecessary needs.

In general, our lakes quickly fill up with soil, our land contours sink, and our ecosystems disappear. In the case of Manhattan, Hudson River dumping and erosion projects in natural marshes lead to financial success, while Manhattan Island is losing.

Historically, America was connected to Africa and Europe, until Atlantic Ocean divided the land. In Manhattan, these changes caused pre-existing basins, plate collisions, erosions, and destroyed fossils to bury underground. The geological glaciers are reminders that we were once connected to the world. This is an example of a forest primeval, uninfluenced by human activity.

Today, Manhattan avenues follow the parallel direction of rock formation underneath the street grid. The curved streets in lower Manhattan resemble colonial settlements of Europeans, which were once connected to our land. The irregular street grid was shaped by a long history of political disputes and natural land reactions. This is another example of forest primeval and what still exists of today’s concrete jungle.

In Central Park, large boulders are now recreational places. Paths along Fifth Avenue curve down into the park, where grooves lead you into New York’s landscaping, bridges and man-made pond.

We attempt to build what was lost, as we were originally connected to the rest of the world.

This book explores how humanity hopes to control what’s left of forest primeval in the concrete jungles and as an example for others to follow for a sustainable future.

Back to the Future

Florida Designer Homes Magazine Ultra Modern April 2012, Volume 1, No. 6, Page 6-7 Back to the Future How modern and ultra-modern design is transcending our image-conscious society, within half of a second.

Remember Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future trilogy in the late 80s? Imagine if you were sitting next to Marty McFly in the time machine and jetted out to year 3012 instead of back to 1955.  This is what happens every day with our image-conscious society. Within the blink of an eye, innovation is at its finest.

It is like as if you are watching Charlie Chaplin dancing in those silent black and white movies and then you step away for a second, you turn around and see everyone is grabbing their 3D goggles to watch the internet inside a high definition larger-than-life flat screen, because virtual reality is just so “today”.

Out with the dinosaurs and in with the robots running our lives. As far as our image-conscious society is concerned, we tend to always find the latest, the newest, and the most cutting edge version before others catch up in the race. Whether we are artists, financial planners, designers, or lawyers,  visually stimulating and new designs are always attracting us, emotionally, mentally and physically. It is the energy that tends to keep people connected, based on common demographics and like-minded observations of one community.

Welcome to the fourth version of Back to the Future, where modern architecture and interior design styles have the “WOW” factor. These styles lead us to a new world of ultra-modern everything.

As we all evolve every day, limits become unlimited. Designers are now attracting mixed-media with touches of “green” as smart, healthy design. The merging of different professions call for more function, updated excitement and clean definition to these standard professions.  Eventually the next best style will be in the works, whether it is a traditional coming back from the past or it is a mesh of different time periods.  Ultra will become more ultra, as we gain better solutions by meshing with “smart” design choices.