The Powerhouse

In addition to (but inextricably linked with) program, budget, an extraordinary site and an acknowledged responsibility towards education, certain other factors impacted upon the form of the building as it is constituted in the condition of its being.

The first is the theological context interpreted with an understanding of the Power House. The building’s basilica-like form evolves naturally as it is sited at the Eastern end of Shiloh Boulevard (the termination of an East-West axis that bisects the biblically conceived town of Zion, Illinois, and incidentally, gives rise to the name of its voided center — Shiloh Park).  Driving Eastward from the center of that park, the basilica section looms in the distance, the insistence of which rapidly become apparent.  Given the sun rising in the East from Lake Michigan over the building itself, the presence of nature in its most clear-cut form of energy is indisputable.

The ecological responsiveness of the shape is understood in the readability of the small section (all that one sees throughout the one mile approach).  Given the wetlands into which this minimum footprint gingerly resides, its shape (as initially perceived) seemed appropriate.

The Power House’s response to the greatest form of man-made energy, the Zion Nuclear Power Station, is one of disjunction.  The orientation of the Nuclear Station is 77 degrees to the South Southwest; thus, there are two 13 degree disruptions into the Power House in the form of emergency egress concrete buttresses and their light steel treillage, both of which bracket the Exhibition Hall itself.  Additionally, the location of Zion Station is 13 degrees East Southeast from Shiloh Park, putting it into line with Jerusalem, helping to valorize any liturgical connection with the biblical origins of Zion, which is compounded by each of the four exhibition zones rotating 13 degrees each.

The exposed mechanical ductwork, electrical conduit, structural connections and the like, are symbolically intended to convey the way in which architecture is “energized,” thus helping to “decode” the mysteriousness of building.

The sandblasting forms on the glass end walls, as well as the large windows punctuating the building’s 336-foot longitudinal facades symbolize much of the information about rotation/disjunctive interaction caused by the intersection between man-made and natural forms of energy by rotating that information from plan to elevation.  It is that intersection which essentializes the Power House more than anything else.