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Gensler’s HYDROGENerator Wins Spark Award for International Design Excellence
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2009 |

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.

HYDROGENerator by Gensler

Click above image to enlarge
Current state of Chicago’s abandoned Bloomingdale rail line

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.

HYDROGENerator by Gensler

Click above image to enlarge
The proposed HYDROGENerator by Gensler in collaboration with 4240 Architecture

“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.”

HYDROGENerator by Gensler

Click above image to enlarge

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.

HYDROGENerator by Gensler

Click above image to enlarge

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.” 

HYDROGENerator by Gensler

Click above image to enlarge

Images: Gensler

Sunday, November 01, 2009
I believe I am missing something in the explanation of the project. The project itself is intriguing, but I don't think that I fully understand the energy production loop. They call it a "truly sustainable loop", but they are pulling in water from an outside source, and then using PV created energy to break down that water in hydrogen and oxygen? I understand that the water is needed for food growing, but why would you bring in extra water to simply break it down with energy produced on site? And why would there be "excess hydrogen"? Wouldn't just be more efficient to just bring in the water you need for food, and then give the remaining/excess energy used from onsite PV production to the school system for their energy needs? And sell some to electric vehicles rather than fuel cell vehicles? I don't understand the extra step of producing hydrogen - seems superfluous. I want to like this project, and am very welcoming of any further explanation that fills the gaps that I am currently seeing.

Brooklyn, NY
Monday, November 02, 2009
It sure is pretty though....

Monday, November 02, 2009
The Bloomingdale Line should be utilized for an expansion of the CTA. It's perfect for increasing rapid-transit access to the West Side without the expense of digging subways or erecting elevated tracks. These proposals are missing the bigger picture.

Monday, November 02, 2009
Ahh very interesting. I wonder if the tracks could have been saved to transport equipment and produce easier.

I am inclined to agree with RADDoffice that no enough information is provided to explain why energy is stored in fuel cells rather than tied to the grid.

Justin, I love the idea of extended CTA service but do you think the route is long enough to be effective? The North Ave bus runs parallel to the tracks and offers pretty good service.

More information on the line can be found here: http://www.bloomingdaletrail.org/

Lola Ripollés
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Its very interesting and strickingly beautiful. The kind of element that will soon become an icon for the city. I wish it could become true, although I foresee that some of its side solutions, like the hydrogen storage will need a second thought. But I would like to congratulate the team on the idea- fresh ideas like this are the ones that push the green spirit forward public-wise, and of course, green does mean pretty

Chicago IL
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I live adjacent to the Bloomingdale elevated area. I have been excited by the idea that a trail would come from these abandoned tracks. I agree with Scott that there is adequate bus service with North Ave and Armitage at equal, short walks from this location. CTA has it's hands full just trying to survive. Bio-diesel is a solution they should be exploring.
The Hydrogenerator gives so much added value. I would still advocate for a trail element to the design. It would become an attraction bringing much needed revenue opportunities to the neighborhoods where that is lacking.
RADDoffice poses some great questions. There are design elements that require more attention. I would like to see the poorly managed storm water run off in this city have a purpose.
Overall I would like to support the fresh idea behind this project. I hope that it becomes a realistic plan for a great property in my neighborhood.

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