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MKM ACSA Steel Competition - a civic nest.

Interior Courtyard Rendering (Nicholas Bloom)

Team: Nicholas Bloom and Adam Freeby

Site / Context / Program:

Site: The site in Gary is found in the heart of town at the end node of Broadway, which splits the site North to South. By sitting at the end of the major part of Broadway, the station is one of the first things people will see when the come into the town off the highway or train and the last thing they see when leaving town, so the location of the site is crucial for the image of the city

This site is home to the Adam Benjamin JR Metro Center, which is a stop on the South Shore Line, which stretches from Central Station in downtown Chicago to South Bend, IN. Beyond the train station, the rest of the site is part of Gateway Park, an open area with a few monuments to pieces of Gary.


The East end of the site sees I-90 cut off the site, while the site works towards the Gary SouthShore RailCats baseball stadium.

North of the site is the rail line of the South Shore, and beyond that is I-90, more rail lines (primarily industry), and the US Steel plant. To the West is a parking lot for the existing train station, and beyond that is dilapidated neighborhoods of Gary.

The South side has the most connection to the site, the city of Gary is to the south of the site, the major points would be the City and County Courthouses, the Genesis Convention Center and the Hudson Campbell Sports Center. These buildings are found adjacent to the site and are most likely to benefit from the transit center in Gary, so keeping a connection to these points of interest was important for us.

Site Map of Gary


The program looked at providing a new hub to the city of Gary and using the transit center as more of a social center rather than just a place of transport. This was accomplished through retail spaces, restaurants, offices and recreational areas.

Interior Programming;

  • 10 retail spaces (~1500 sf)

  • 4 offices (~1600 sf)

  • 2 restaurants (~5000 sf)

  • 1 recreation space (~5000 sf)

  • concourse area (~20,000 sf)

Beyond the interior of the building the program could be pushed outside and the concept of the a social hub was quite intriguing and we wanted to try and push the design beyond the walls and onto the site. So finding ways to push the social aspect to the site and allowing the people of Gary to engage with the site rather than move from point A to point B.

Design Process:

The design process followed a series of trial and error to find the basic layout for the building and it took a couple iterations of understanding the best way to bring the public to the station and want to move both inside and outside of the building. The project could be broken down into two separate pieces that worked in unison to create the vision for a new hub in the center of Gary. Keeping in mind of the lasting mark that this station has the ability to become, a focus was put into emphasizing the building and its importance.


After the early concepts the final shape was determined, The concept is derived from the focus on a Civic Nest. This civic nest mimics that of a birds nest by offering up a safe haven for the commuters riding the trains, and the community both in and out of the building, while also becoming a social incubator for economic and social growth for the town of Gary.

Form Process (Adam Freeby)

The nitty gritty of the building put a focus onto the past that Gary has deep roots in, the steel industry. The building brings attention to this past through the different materials that make up the building. For instance, the steel canopy that climbs up and over the building and feels as if it is coming straight from the steel mill on the otherside of the tracks. Beyond the canopy the structure is composed of steel trusses and columns making up the entire structure of the building. The building also resembles the limestone used in the city and county buildings across the street from the site and also helps give a solid base to the building so it feels anchored to the site.

The wings form the central courtyard the is covered by the canopy. This courtyard has complete visibility in and out creating a sense of security in the space. Not only do these windows provide security but they bring daylighting into the building and help naturally light the building during the middle of the day.

A key to the design was making sure that their were multiple points of entry to the building to create different ways to approach and move through the building. The primary entrances would be the courtyard facing and the entry to the west facing the bus station. The secondary entries would be in the left wing retail spaces on the ground level and then the two restaurants in the right wing.

The program within the building broke down as follows;

  • First Floor

  • ​2 Restaurants

  • 3 Retail Spaces

  • Main Concourse

  • Access to the Platform

  • Second Floor

  • ​7 Retail spaces

  • Mechanical Space

  • Recreational Space

  • Third Floor

  • ​4 Offices

  • 2 Roof Top Patios

  • Included on each floor

  • 2 Fire Escapes

  • 2 Elevators

  • Restrooms

Site Design:

The goal of the site was to work towards a space that the community would want to be in. The site currently has a space that could be used by the public but the area is quite stagnant and does not get alot of use, which is an issue given its prime location in the town of Gary.

When tackling the site the key was to figure out ways to draw people out on a consistent basis, not just when it was convenient for them to go from Point A to Point B.

Our solution was to give the users the freedom to use the space as they see fit. The site became broken into 4 major areas.

  1. Social/Sitting Space

  • ​Area for people to meet hangout and gather for lunch and general relaxation

  1. Outdoor Recreation

  • ​A dynamic area that can be used for something as simple as a game of basketball or something more like an outdoor concert or rally.

  1. Social Movement Space

  • ​Open space that can be utilized for many different uses ranging from Food Truck Friday to a weekend farmers market

  1. Arts Space

  • ​A specific space for art and sculptures to be shown off to reflect the artistic talents that come from the town.

Each space offers its own benefits to the community but each one is dynamic enough to be used in a multitude of ways at anytime of the year. We believe that this solution to have these different dynamic spaces will help bring economic and social growth to Gary in tandem with the station.


This project brought unique challenges to find a solution that could become a hub for a struggling industrial city on the outskirts of Chicago.

There is hope for Gary and the station will not fix all of its problems but it can become the catalysts


- Second place in the 2018 MKM Steel Competition @ Ball State University

- Submitted to the national ACSA Steel Competition

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