Gensler’s winning design, co-created with 4240 Architecture, transforms Chicago’s abandoned Bloomingdale rail line into a three mile long greenhouse and hydrogen generator that provides 10 acres of farm land year round, powers city schools, and creates a beacon for the city.
Chicago’s Bloomingdale railroad viaduct runs through the city’s heart, connecting neighborhoods, the city’s park system, and the Chicago River. The three-mile long elevated rail line was abandoned in the 1980s and currently sits neglected, overtaken by vegetation, garbage, and debris. It is at once an eyesore as well as a beautiful wilderness set against a dense urban backdrop.
“Our city’s challenges are too significant and the Bloomingdale Line’s potential too great for it to be just another park,” said Gensler design director Brian Vitale. “The Bloomingdale Line is worthy of a greater purpose, one that will directly affect people in most need within the city.”
In Gensler’s proposed solution, the greenhouse above produces food while the hydrogen generator below creates electricity to split water molecules into pure Hydrogen and Oxygen. This new fuel cell energy will be used to power nearby Chicago Public Schools, in turn helping the CPS reverse its budget shortfall from last year which resulted in teacher layoffs to offset rising utility bills. Simply put, Hydrogen = Teachers. The excess Hydrogen will be sold to alternative fuel vehicles at depots throughout the line.
As it produces this much needed food and energy, the Hydrogenerator simultaneously releases oxygen as the by-product of photosynthesis and hydrogen production, a truly sustainable loop.
“A highly visible beacon day or night, the Hydrogenerator stands as a symbol for a new paradigm that involves examining abandoned and underused infrastructure for new energy bearing technologies,” said Vitale. “The more local, the more clean the energy, the more stable and healthy the society.”