A pop-up exhibition of Skidmore Owings and Merrill design documents, models and related project ephemera for some of the firm’s most noteworthy assignments opened at Chicago’s Ace Hotel on Sept. 10. The stars of the exhibit, entitled SOM: Engineering X [Art x Architecture], are the concepts and forms of more than 30 of the firm’s famous designs, including Chicago’s Sears Tower and the Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai, with models shown in 1:500 scale. Hand-drawn sketches, interactive sculpture and video also inform viewers about each project on display. “We decided to make them all the same scale and only show the structure,” says SOM structural engineering partner William F. Baker. “We did that based on Myron Goldsmith’s 1959 IIT scale thesis, ‘The Tall Building: The Effects of Scale.’ You can see how each functions in relation.”

The exhibition also focuses on SOM’s tradition of collaboration with visual artists. The exhibit features models, drawings and visual art from projects created by Pablo Picasso, James Turrell, Jaume Plensa, James Carpenter, Janet Echelman and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle. Presented with Mana Contemporary Chicago in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the exhibit runs through Jan. 7, 2018.


The Chicago Journeyman Plumbers’ Local Union 130 opened a $21-million, 50,000-sq-ft, Gensler-designed training facility in the city’s West Loop this month. The facility was designed to prepare apprentices for the installation and maintenance of rainwater and graywater harvesting systems, rooftop solar heating systems, plan reading, shop drawings, installation and maintenance of underground water supply systems, stormwater, sewer drainage, fixture installation and waste and vent piping both inside and outside of commercial buildings and residential homes.

The classrooms in the training center include a hand drawing classroom, a CAD design lab, a fixture installation and maintenance lab, hands-on training in common scenarios such as frozen pipes, a complete structure that requires connection to an underground water main, a welding training shop and roof-mounted rainwater collection and harvesting system with a 10,000-gallon storage tank.

“Everything in the building is a training tool,” says James Majerowicz, training director of the LU 130 Plumbers’ joint apprenticeship committee. “The machine rooms are all big enough to teach a class in.” LU 130 officials say the new facility will likely serve 80-100 apprenticeship students a day in the coming months.