Ford Calumet Environmental Center

Form Follows Availability


Chicago / USA


Studio Gang Architects


Public Building Commission of Chicago


Design Completed 2008

LEED Rating

targeted Platinum

In order to educate visitors about the Calumet region's unique industrial and natural importance, this project reconceptualizes the way a building is constructed. Using the nest-making process as a model, the design for the 27,000 sf Environmental Center is composed of materials collected from things abundant, nearby, and discarded: salvaged steel from the Calumet industrial region and other remnant, recyclable materials such as slag, glass bottles, bar stock, and rebar. In highlighting these materials and employing them in new ways, the building demonstrates the sustainable principle of re-use. Other sustainable features include geothermal heat pumps, earth tubes, a biomass boiler, and water collection systems, all of which are integrated into the overall building design and become part of the educational component of the center and its site.

As of early 2012, the project is being envisioned as a future anchor of the Millennium Reserve, a new 140,000 acre open space reserve system that will connect green spaces throughout northeast Illinois, with the Calumet region at its core. The Center will become a green job training and development hub where workers and volunteers expand their skill sets in environmental remediation, restoration, and conservation.


2011 Holcim Awards Acknowledgement Prize North America, Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

2009 Proggy Award, Most Compassionate Architecture Firm, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Selected Publications

2012 Architectural Theories of Environment: Posthuman Territory (Routledge)

2009 Sept 5, Financial Times (UK)
"Is your nest safe for birds?"

2009 Oct, Interior Design Magazine
“Steel Works”

2009 Spring, Chicago Wilderness
“Discovering the Calumet: Toward Renewal”

2008 June, Casamica
“Un nido-voliera per salvare la natura”

2008 Jan 10, Architectural Record
“Form Follows Feathers: Bird-Friendly Architecture”

2007 Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design (Ecotone)

2007 Exhibit, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
"Sustainable Architecture in Chicago"

2006 Fall, i4Design Magazine
“Project: Ford Calumet Environmental Center”

2006 Feb, Chicago Tribune
“City marsh set to get a face-lift”

2004 Fall, A+T
“Nueva Materialidad (New Materiality)”

2004 May, Architectural Record
“Studio Gang Wins Contest to Build Environmental Center in Chicago”

2004 July, Building Design & Construction
“A plus for ecology – and for the birds”

2004 July, Metropolis
“Mayor Daley’s Green Crusade”

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