The Menagerie of Ideal Architectures

We propose re-purposing the former St. Stephen’s Church in Chicago, Illinois as a collection of similarly disenfranchised types, the Menagerie of Ideal Architectures. A social matrix comprising analogue spaces of social and cultural ideals, the Menagerie both serves the community and provides fertile inspiration for architects and artists.

Architecture’s historical role as a frame for cultural speculation is well-established, yet today technological and digital space holds sway in the cultural imaginary. Although architecture’s socio-cultural moment may have waned in the popular eye, their vestigial tectonic products will continue to occupy physical space - Saint Stephen’s being a prime example.

The Menagerie activates the latent potential of St. Stephen’s pure volumetric mass by arranging four public baths vertically within the space, each a distillation of a particular set of architectural ideals. These artefacts are meant to be experienced through exercise and socializing. Accommodating variations in temperature, texture, activity, atmosphere, and gravitational pull, the bath is uniquely suited to the Menagerie’s experiential needs.

Locker rooms in a Classically-influenced cruciform plan occupy the first floor: on the second, a Neoclassical plunge bath allows for socializing and play. Overhead, a Constructivist constellation of warm pools provide secluded seating for conversation and collaboration. A Modernist lap pool nestles in the pendentives: patrons are able to train their bodies without excessive ornamental temptation. Below the oculus, Metabolist hot pools accommodate single or double occupancy, forming a web of intimate, yet networked spaces.

The Menagerie of Ideal Architectures is a physical anchor in cultural time, a bookmark to be returned to and re-examined when the time is right, or the catalyst of new combinations of spatial strategies and components. Preserving under-used architectural typologies is not achieved through citation, but rather a sustained rate of use, where they can be experienced, digested, and re-released back into whatever socio-cultural milieu awaits it.

With Mustafa Khan

Galen Pardee is Drawing Agency: a design and research practice based in New York City.

Currently, he teaches at Columbia University GSAPP; he was the 2019-2021 LeFevre Emerging Practitioner Fellow at The Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture. Galen holds a Masters in Architecture from Columbia University GSAPP where he received the Alpha Rho Chi Medal, and a BA in Politics cum laude from Brandeis University.

galen (at) drawingagency (dot) org


Copyright Galen Pardee, 2020