Town Hall Discussion with CAC Architects-in-Residence, ChartierDalix
This fall, the Chicago Architecture Center is hosting an architects residency with ChartierDalix, an award-winning design firm from France. The team is here to study potential new futures for the Loop. In this town hall format program, we will consider the team’s initial case studies for creating new public spaces, repositioning aging office towers, and inviting more nature into our lives. A discussion with experts from across Chicago’s design and real estate development community follows the presentation. If you think our downtown is in need of revitalization and fresh thinking, this program is for you.
Gia Biagi, Principal of Urbanism, Studio Gang
Gia Biagi is Principal of Urbanism at Studio Gang, where she leads the office's urban design, planning, and strategy work. This part of the practice unites an emphasis on ecology and revitalizing cities with a renewed focus on how to reimagine public assets, institutions, and neighborhoods to be more relevant, connected, and responsive to their communities.
Biagi’s career, spanning both private practice and public service, has established her as a visionary leader in community-centered and environmentally responsible urban planning and design. From 2019 to 2023, she served as Commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Transportation, where she delivered hundreds of innovative transportation projects citywide and created a nation-leading strategic plan focused on safe, sustainable, and efficient mobility options and building equity into its daily operations. Prior to that, she held positions in Chicago’s Park District and the Department of Planning and Development, where her work focused on neighborhood revitalization through planning, programs, policies, and capital investments.
At Studio Gang she has led projects such as Civic Commons, which reimagines how public assets can foster inclusion and economic opportunity; Memphis Riverfront Concept, which proposes a vision for six miles of parks and city fabric along the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee; and New York Neighborhood Activation, which proposes a community-centered approach to designing for neighborhood wellness, safety, and stability.
Gia serves on the Shared-Use Mobility Center’s board of directors and was previously appointed Secretary of the National Association of City Transportation Officials and served the boards of the City Parks Alliance and NeighborSpace. She is also a member of Lambda Alpha International, an honorary society for the study of land economics. Gia earned her Master of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan.
Michael Ellch, Senior Vice President of Development, Related Midwest
Michael Ellch is the Senior Vice President of Development at Related Midwest, managing site acquisition and development for the firm's multibillion-dollar pipeline of real estate projects. During his first stint with the firm beginning in 2011, Ellch played a key role in a number of high-profile developments, including The 78, Landmark West Loop, 500 Lake Shore Drive, One Bennett Park, 900 Randolph, and 725 West Randolph Street.
At The 78, Ellch led acquisition and entitlement efforts to pave the way for Related Midwest's transformative 62-acre development, future home of the Discovery Partners Institute and Chicago’s first Innovation District. As one of the largest real estate projects in Chicago history, The 78 will include a mix of residential, commercial, academic, cultural, and recreational experiences, with abundant green space and riverfront activation.
Ellch was also a key driver of Box Shops, a pop-up container market that showcases lifestyle brands and local businesses in an innovative approach to activating pre-construction sites with immersive retail, art, and recreational experiences.
Ellch is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and participates in the MIT Center for Real Estate student mentoring program. He earned his undergraduate degree from Arizona State University and holds a Master's in Real Estate Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Molly Meyers, CEO and Founder, Omni Ecosystems
Molly Meyers founded Omni Ecosystems in 2009 to democratize nature. She envisioned, created, and now leads a company that pushes new frontiers of resilient landscapes in the built environment. Under Molly's leadership, Omni has grown into a multidisciplinary team that continuously engages in bold endeavors to affect meaningful change across the country, effectively delivering on a triple bottom line that seeks positive outcomes on social, environmental, and economic terms.
Molly holds two degrees from Stanford University: a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Earth Systems. She led the redevelopment and adaptive reuse of the Bowman Dairy Company's circa 1923 bottling plant and its 2.5-acre site in Bronzeville into Omni's headquarters. Before starting her own venture, Molly built green roofs as a Robert Bosch Fellow in Germany, and, prior to that, worked as a carpenter for a general contractor in Seattle.
Carol Ross Barney, Design Principal and Founder, Ross Barney Architects
Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, HASLA, is the recipient of the 2023 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, and has been in the vanguard of civic space design since founding Ross Barney Architects in 1981. With a career that spans nearly 50 years, Carol has made significant contributions to the built environment, the profession, and architectural education. From her early days in the United States Peace Corps planning National Parks in Costa Rica to recent collaborations with city governments, Carol has relentlessly advocated that excellent design is a right, not a privilege.
Her body of work, being almost exclusively in the public realm, represents this ethos and occupies a unique place within the panorama of contemporary architecture.
A native Chicagoan, Carol is the mother of three sons and grandmother to Kai and Han.
Presenter: Frédéric Chartier, Principal and Co-Founder, ChartierDalix
Frédéric Chartier is a principal and co-founder of the studio ChartierDalix, which was established in 2008 with Pascale Dalix. Recognized in several international competitions, their Paris-based firm has been awarded numerous prizes, including the prestigious Equerre d'argent in 2022 for the Public Hospitals headquarters in Paris. In 2017, the Academy of Architecture attributed the firm le Soufaché, in recognition of its collective body of work. In 2020, ChartierDalix authored a study for the La Défense district entitled “Making a System.” It outlines some of the tools and visions for its evolution, making verticality attractive in an open-air experience of the city. This fall, the French public institution for Architecture, La Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, is supporting Pascale and Frédéric’s Villa Albertine fellowship in Chicago and their research proposal, “New Systems: Rethinking the Future of the High-Rise District.”
Host: Michael Wood, Senior Curator, Chicago Architecture Center
Michael Wood joined the Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) in 2010 when he became the first Executive Director of the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO). In 2015, his role expanded to oversee program development for CAC’s lectures, exhibitions, and public events. Under Michael's leadership, AAO's network expanded from 16 founding members to 112 across 42 US cities and eight countries, with the Design Matters Conference series as a flagship event. Under his stewardship, the conference has become the premier annual gathering for nonprofit professionals in architecture and K-12 design education. In his current role as CAC’s Senior Curator, Michael coordinates institution-wide initiatives, crafting innovative programs and visitor experiences tailored for adult audiences. Before joining CAC, Michael held the position of Director of Planning and Program Development at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. In this multifaceted role, he contributed to fundraising, institutional communications, audience and board development, and the introduction of new programming initiatives. Michael's educational background includes a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Colorado College.
This program is made possible by Villa Albertine, in partnership with the IIT College of Architecture, and with generous underwriting from Sandra L. Helton and Norman Edelson. Additional support comes courtesy of Graham Foundation, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Chicago Architecture Center, and Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine.