A downtown Chicago waterpark? Contest elicits creative ideas for future of Thompson Center

A waterpark? A school? A gigantic electronic art project? Those are just some of the ideas submitted to a contest looking for out-of-the-box ideas for the future of Chicago's James Thompson Center.

The Thompson Center is located in the Loop and owned by the state of Illinois. It was designed by legendary architect Helmut Jahn and built in 1984. The state put it up for sale in May 2021, citing the massive costs of repairing and maintaining the building, which is mostly a gigantic glass atrium.

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) and the Chicago Architectural Club announced seven finalists for the architectural design competition after looking at 59 entries from five countries.


One of the entries, called "Public Pool," recommends that the offices around the atrium be turned into a hotel. The hotel would ring an indoor waterpark with massive waterfalls set in a garden. "Public Pool" was submitted by David Rader, Jerry Johnson, Ryan Monteleagre, and Matt Zelensek of the Perkins & Will architecture firm of Chicago.

The winners will be announced on Sept. 14.