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Ten Unbuilt Green Design Schemes for Chicago

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Actually, we take that back: Every day is Earth Day around here, so apropos of nothing at all, let's take a look back at some of the most out-of-this-world, imaginative (and in many cases, utterly impractical) green design schemes for Chicago that have been presented in recent years. Most of these renderings were entered in architectural competitions; some were produced by architecture students. And although many of these concepts are flights of fancy that'll never be realized, it's still fun to dream.

10. The Project: Green Roof City
The Architect(s): Yi Huang, Tian Tan and Xu Zhang
The Concept: A massive ramp intended to connect two separate Depaul University buildings in the Loop, topped with an elaborate green roof. The plan includes "rotating timber screens" on the facade.

9. The Project: Green Constellation
The Architect(s): Kees Lokman, Fadi Masoud and Conor O'Shea
The Concept: The recent winner of MAS Context and the Chicago Architectural Club's NETWORK RESET competition, the plan calls for "reconditioning abandoned swaths of industrial property and their associated connective infrastructure such as rails and canals for new uses."

8. The Project: The Living Skyscraper: Farming the Urban Skyline
The Architect(s): Blake Kurasek
The Concept: A 120-story vertical farm near Navy Pier produced Blake Kurasek's 2007 master's thesis at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The tower would include apartments and condos "interspersed with areas of commodities such as fruits, vegetables and cash crops."

7. The Project: Eco Bridge
The Architect(s): Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill
The Concept: An update on Danial Burnham's breakwater from the Plan of Chicago, Smith and Gill floated this plan for a 2-mile land bridge dotted with windmills for the Burnham Plan Centennial. The estimated cost: $1 billion.

6. The Project: New Loop Ecologies
The Architect(s): Garofalo Architects
The Concept: The Loop's elevated tracks would remain intact, but the architects call for adding a high line above the existing tracks that would be contain gardens, livestock (!), and nightclubs.

5. The Project: Feeder
The Architect(s): Studio Gang Architect
The Concept: Cover up the Ohio Street feeder ramp with a bunch of pyramid-shaped greenhouses, offering "a useful and productive gateway architecture that reinvigorates Chicago as an urban habitat.”

4. The Project: Solar Tower
The Architect(s): Zoka Zola Architects
The Concept:The idea to cover a skyscraper with solar panels is a good one, but those rotating spherical panels are looking rather cumbersome now that the technology for solar-generating windows is available.

3. The Project: Grafted Crystaline Mesh
The Architect(s): Dirk Denison
The Concept: Looking forward to the early 22nd century, this plan calls for installing a network of "grafted crystalline mesh" across the city to be used for public transportation.

2. The Project: West Loop Park
The Architect(s): Perkins + Will
The Concept: Another 'Big Dig'-style plan to cover the expressway and add green space, this time in the West Loop. The covered expressway would include large "wind scoops" to keep air moving.

1. The Project: The Chicago Grid
The Architect(s): Brininstool+Lynch
The Concept: The ultimate sci-fi vision for Chicago includes an umbrella of magnetic energy that "hovers above the city and powers public transportation." People in the distant future will apparently dress like Robin Hood and Maid Marian, but they'll still ride bicycles.