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Tim Bacheller's Cut and Paste: A Boat House & Park in Bridgeport

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It's tough out there for up-and-coming architects, so in the coming weeks Curbed will shine the spotlight on some of Chicago's architecture students and recent grads. (They're our future!) Know a young architect we should feature? Hit us up on the Curbed tipline.

This week's featured architect is Tim Bacheller, who received his Master of Architecture from IIT in May, and is planning to internship with either Sou Fujimoto Architects in Tokyo or Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in Copenhagen. For Curbed Futures, Tim shared his proposed redevelopment of a vacant riverfront lot located on the South Fork turning basin in Bridgeport. The program outlined by the studio was for a kayak center to serve both the burgeoning Chicago river recreation segment and the surrounding neighborhood. While many students focused their efforts on just the built object, Tim focused his energy on the interaction between the site, its history and its future user. The result is a adaptive, naturalistic landscape which provides opportunities for both exploration and evolution.

Curbed: What attracted you to architecture?

TB: Fame and money. [Laughs] I think what attracted me to architecture is that it is a discipline composed of many different threads. It addresses social and cultural issues and has a chance to provide a positive impact on people's lives, and it's something we must engage on a daily basis.

Curbed: Was coming to Chicago a planned decision for you?

TB: I would say that it was a combination of circumstances and chance that led to my arrival in Chicago. I had heard of IIT's well regarded undergraduate program and happened to apply to the school's graduate program. I had also never been to Chicago before so I thought that it would provide me a unique experience to study in a city renown for its architectural heritage, both built and in academia.

Curbed: Do you think that your experiences here in Chicago (and at IIT) helped shape your approach towards architecture?

TB: I am really happy I wound up at IIT. Before I first came here I tried to remove myself of all preconceptions, and to approach architecture in an almost naive manner in order to absorb as much information as I could. I feel this really helped me, not only within my studies at IIT, but also within Chicago's architectural community. What makes Chicago great as an architecture student is that you have a group of schools that form a deep pool to swim in. IIT has an evolving Modernist/Mies legacy, UIC seems to focus on formal and social issues and criticism, and the School of the Art Institute positions architecture within the arts on a hyper level. Taking advantage of this diversity among schools proved to be invaluable to my education.

Curbed: Many students typically miss out on opportunities available to them while studying, what experiences do you feel were most valuable to you during your time at IIT?

TB: I tried to take advantage of any international opportunities. I participated in a winter workshop in Chile and just last fall I studied abroad in Paris, both of which pushed my abilities to places I never imagined they could reach. Aside from studying abroad, I made sure to attend lectures and to be a social person even when I was super busy. I've attended lectures by Jeff Kipnis, SANAA, Winy Maas, Sarah Whiting, Julien de Smedt, Nader Therani, Farshid Moussavi, Kengo Kuma, Sou Fujimoto, Iñaki Ábalos, and the list just goes on and on. I also learned from my classmates and made some great friends. The amount of diversity in the college of architecture surprised me. I was able to share with colleagues from Spain, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia? It was enlightening to see how architecture is handled by other cultures.

Curbed: If you could summarize your architectural identity, how would you do so?

TB: Hmm, well, first of all, I'm always learning and it's always evolving. For now, I guess I would say it's looking at pragmatic issues or elements of architecture that once they are evaluated, or reevaluated, possess inherent qualities that can become new opportunities once exposed.

Curbed: Mind elaborating?

TB: For example, one studio project for a performing arts center had a canopy covering a courtyard. By looking at the way forces flow through the canopy and down to the ground, excess material could be removed. Not only was the canopy more efficient, but the resulting figure was somewhat whimsical with openings that provided for sunlight and shadows. It provided a place for gathering, and related the building to its site. The forces also determined the placement of vertical supports which added variety to the facades. By exposing an inherent quality, in this case structural forces, opportunities arose that informed the project.

Another project asked what if the stair was a form of housing? The stair was evaluated in terms of its purpose, perception and scale. Then a matrix of schemes were developed that were all stair as building. Elements from various schemes were then translated into a housing project on a given site. By evaluating and exploiting the stair, it was evident that something like the stair, which is often taken for granted, could
provide for new forms of collective living, and have formal and even urban implications.

Curbed: Less is More or Less is Less?

TB: [long pause]... Sometimes.

Curbed: What built project here in Chicago do you dislike the most?

TB: The ones that immediately come to mind are the new high-rises in the South Loop, East of Michigan Ave. on Roosevelt Road. (One Museum Park East and West by Pappageorge/Haymes) I feel like they are confused buildings. They are not exquisite enough to be prominent architectural icons and they are not quiet in a way that gracefully blends into the downtown fabric. Rather they call attention to themselves in a tacky way. It is like the skyline is wearing a bespoke suit from Savile Row, but with white tube socks.

Curbed: Amen.

Curbed: Thanks for your time, Tim. Any advice to current or prospective architecture students before you go?

TB: Sure. In general I would say that it is not the project type students should be evaluating when selecting a studio, but rather the professor. You want someone who is a smart, enthusiastic person, who is a good teacher, as well as a good architect. Try to follow professors that you get along with who can mentor you... If you develop a good relationship they will be more than willing to help you during and after school.