Built in 1981 on the north side of Chicago, the New City YMCA served both residents of the upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood and the nearby Cabrini-Green public housing complex. Eventually the housing complex was demolished and membership declined to the YMCA. The site was sold to a developer and the YMCA building was demolished in 2007, and later replaced by a mixed-use development dubbed NEWCITY—a three-building complex with a high-rise residential tower as well as retail and commercial office space totaling one million square feet.
Media Objectives, an experiential design studio at Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, recently created a public installation to enliven a ground-floor pedestrian throughway in the high-rise building. To celebrate the site’s heritage and the spirit of the former YMCA, the team created three structures comprised of glazed bricks salvaged from the original YMCA building. Bricks are stacked to form three wall segments that are mounted above the floor on raw steel frames.
The front of each segment references the original facade, and the backs feature mosaics of the different-colored bricks, symbolizing the YMCA’s role of bringing together members of two very different communities.
A wall treatment on the side of the pedestrian throughway complements the brick structures. It features a typographic compilation of words and phrases that express what the YMCA meant to the community, such as “safe haven,” “rejuvenation,” “inclusivity,” and “a shared memory.” An information panel tells the full story of the YMCA.