LEED Platinum environmental center sitting directly between a biologically sensitive marsh and Ford Motor Company, acting as a hub of environmental activities for the local community and for Chicago-based museums.

"Ecology of Foreign Objects" was selected as 1 of 7  finalists in an international design competition sponsored by the City of Chicago and Ford Motor Company. The project was featured in Architectural Record and the Chicago Tribune, and was exhibited in "Big and Green - Chicago" at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.


The Ford Calumet Environmental Center is based on the phenomenon of adaptation.

A foreign object aided by its surroundings: on the North and West by the natural and on the East and South by the industrial, creating a dialogue between nature and artifice. The different skins of the building generate an ecology of foreign objects. 


Calumet, just south of downtown Chicago, is colored by the movement and production of man made goods and by the migration and inhabitation of its wildlife.

The industrial image of the factory started as a foreign object on the natural landscape, but over time became part of the ecosystem itself. Throughout time many of these have surrounded the area, aiding in, and developing its history, becoming part of the manufactured landscape. 


The center operates as a zone of transition between the constructed industrial setting and the immediate natural surroundings. 

A compact, carefully sited building protected by a car hood brise-soleil, reclaimed utility poles, a "flat factory" and endemic vines that restores the genetic memory of the site through rooftop seed dispersal and landscape restoration. The recycled materials forming and protecting the skin of the building establish relationships with its surroundings and heritage.


Design: Strawn+Sierralta

Design Team: Karla Sierralta, Brian Strawn, Steven Kismohr, Siamak Moustoufi , Annie Mohaupt, Prince Ambooken, Colin Morgan, Angela Demma, Dan Roush, Kevin Stephens.

Model Fabrication: Model Options 

Structural Engineer: Louis Shell Structures

Mechanical Engineering: IBC Engineering Services Inc.

Energy Consultants: David Dwyer, Bill Becker, Robin Shulemann

Cost Estimation: The Meyne Company


Competition Jury: 

Ralph Johnson, Architect, Perkins and Will
Julie Bargmann, Landscape Architect, DIRT Studio
Marian Byrnes, Environmental Activist
Raymond Clark, Engineer, HOK
Laurie Hawkinson, Architect, Smith-Miller Hawkinson Architects
Brian MacKay-Lyons, Architect, MacKay-Lyon Sweetapple Architects
James Wescoat Jr., Landscape Architect
Donna Robertson, Architect and Dean at IIT's College of Architecture