Chicago, IL

University of Notre Dame

Senior Thesis Proposal 

Spring 2009

  • Ferguson & Shamamian Undegraduate Prize
  • Dean’s Undergraduate Award for Design Excellence in Architecture
  • Work Published in Acroterion, University of Notre School of Architecture yearly publication, 2008-2009

Project designed and drafted in AutoCAD and presented on eighteen 30x40 inch plates. Plans and technical sheets rendered in Photoshop. Elevations, sections, and perspectives rendered in watercolor.


The senior thesis proposal for a maritime and historic center for the city of Chicago was completed in spring 2009.  Adapted from the Metal Construction Association student design competition, the objective of the project was to develop a plan for Northerly Island to reconnect the city and people of Chicago to the Lake Michigan shoreline.   Conducted in spirit of the Daniel H. Burnham Plan of Chicago of 1909, the design includes a Maritime Museum and Historic Center of Chicago along the lakefront which celebrates Chicago’s rich maritime history and enhances the existing network of civic and public spaces of the Museum Campus.

Site Development
The overall site plan took form from the study of the Burnham plan and inspiration was drawn from his idea of attracting people to Lake Michigan.  The shape of the island came from the existing profile of the Burnham harbor and the 12th street beach area, and responds to shifting axis of McCormick place.  The island design includes a major north south axis flanked by updated beach facilities, a civic center which includes the proposed museum, and an outdoor amphitheater which replaces the temporary Charter One Pavilion.  The museum is located in the center of the island on axis with east Waldron Drive, which allows for a strong connection with the city as well as provides the most ideal setting for outdoor dock facilities.

Design Process
The site and the function of the building influenced the design and development of the museum plan.  The building is unique because it has two frontages, one which faces Lake Michigan and the other which addresses the Chicago skyline. The major focus of the museum is the barrel vaulted vessel gallery around which all spaces in the museum are organized.  This space is expressed on the exterior façade by the triumphal arch and large glass panels that open completely to expose the interior.  The museum is set up in chronological order of Chicago’s maritime history and the exhibits direct visitors in and around the main space on the first and second floor.  The basement of the museum is where most of the educational and administrative functions occur and includes an educational wing and a 250 person auditorium.  Outdoor spaces and exhibits were also incorporated into the museum to take advantage of waterfront recreation and views.  These spaces are accessed off of the first floor gallery, temporary exhibit, and café are located in the basement.  

Local context and character played a major role in the planning of the site and the exterior design of the museum.  The classical architecture of the adjacent museum campus as well as the buildings from the Columbian exposition in 1893 were influential in establishing a character and language for the design.  Another precedent studied was the Brooklyn museum by McKim Mead and white which had a similar parti.  The rear of the building took form from the original facade of Chicago’s Union Station by Graham, Probst, and White as well as Chelsea pier in New York City by Warren and Wetmore.  Because the design of the museum was not literal in form to its function, it was important to study ornament and iconography.  The use of anchors, shells, portholes, figure heads, and roping became an integral part of the design.  Inscribed in the frieze band are the names of the great lakes and bodies of water that connect them, the states that border the great lakes, and types of boats common to Chicago history.