A super-dense, independent city powered by a cutting-edge hydrogen-based energy infrastructure composed of floating skyscrapers over Lake Michigan.

Handpicked architecture firms from New York, Los Angeles and Chicago were invited to envision what their cities would be like in 100 years. Teams had one week to realize their visions and constructs. Strawn + Sierralta's project "Lake Effect" was recipient of the IBM Engineering Innovation Award. "Lake Effect" has been featured in Architect Magazine, The Chicago Sun Times, Gestalten's book "Utopia Forever" , and has been exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.


The History Channel’s City of the Future: Design and Engineering Competition was sponsored by IBM, Infiniti and the American Institute of Architects and hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. 

The event was part of the "Engineering an Empire" program on The History Channel that explores the engineering and/or architectural feats that were characteristic of some of the greatest societies on this planet.


The city can model itself after the structures of biological systems; for resource collection, production, consumption and reuse. 

The team focused on the unique geographic location of Chicago on Lake Michigan and the city’s existing infrastructure to develop super-efficient mass transit systems, provide for urban food production, massively increase green space, multiply neighborhood diversity, and design a renewable source of energy that involved Hydrogen and floating skyscrapers. The city that invented the skyscraper would re-imagine its purpose.



The construct was assembled during a four hour charrette at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, in the historic Santa Fe Building, in front of a public audience and on camera.

The final model, or construct, was made of 3D printed components and hand-cut wooden models. Set atop a wedge-shaped, white base to illustrate the intrinsic balance between the built and natural world, Chicago and the Lake Michigan habitat.



Design Direction: Strawn + Sierralta

Design Team: Brian Strawn, Karla Sierralta, Jo Hormuth, Siamak Moustoufi, Annie Mohaupt, Iker Gil, Julie Michaels, Prince Ambooken, Tiffany Daniels, Daniel Vasini, Diego Sierralta.

Engineering: IBC Engineering Services. Fieena Zvenyach, Lev Zvenyach.

Model Fabrication: Model Options


Competition Jury: 

Ned Cramer, Editor-In-Chief Architect Magazine
Lori Healey, Commissioner of Planning and Development City of Chicago
Diane Legge Kemp, DLK Civic Design and AIA Representative
Joseph Rosa, Curator of Architecture at the Chicago Art Institute
Leslie Shepherd, Chief Architect of the Unites States General Services Administration