Urban Mountain is a new typology which aims to answer to one of the basic need of people: the need to have fun. Dealing with Chicago and its icons the Urban Mountain creates a new iconic building which wants to be different and compete with the existing symbols. The nature of Chicago both as flat morphology country and highrise buit city finds an unexpected situation in this building.   


Constant Nieuwenhuys with his ‘New Babylon’ 1959-74 created the habitat for the homo ludens, who, freed from labor, is looking for an architecture in which he can express its creativity and art.

Cedric Price designed the ‘Fun Palace’ in 1964 as a social interactive machine. Following the vision of Littlewood for a dynamic and interactive theater, Price created one of the most innovative and creative proposals for the use of free time in postwar England.

Basically as homo sapiens we are defined by two natures: homo faber + homo ludens. The homo faber = the maker or nowadays the worker has been for long timethe target of architecture and technology. We created always the most efficient and innovative places or tools for working in such a way that the worker could be effective and be the perfect actor in the money based system.

On the other hand due to different eras and politics it has always been difficult to answer with architecture to the needs ofthe homo ludens. The need to have fun is a basic need of everyone. During crisis or not people always need to play and be able to express their fun.

Leisure is a political, economic, social, and architectural issue. After offering the best working environment it is really important to channel workingclass free time away from idleness and unacceptable forms of leisure (such as crime, alcoholism and political revolution), towards new constructive and productive uses. Society evolves and the working facilities follow the change. Time and efficiency needs to work together as a new dimension in cities. The emphasis is not just on jobs for all but on leisure for all. Leisure needs to be easily reachable in every moment of the day giving a possible alternative to the frenetic rhythm of working.




Creating a ‘leisure machine’ in the middle of a downtown can offer that kind of space for fun immediately next to the perfect working environment. Nowadays the fun in cities is mainly represented by the Theme parks.

Theme parks have always been a district outside the city center. They have been cause of horrible traffic congestions and huge parking lots. Theme parks such as Disneyland or Disney World became magnet of tourism and the place where locals can spend their weekends. In contemporary society where zero car and zero carbon in highly valued, the theme park needs to be easily accessible by people. These places need to be part of the city and so they need to develop in vertical direction and spread themselves in different connected areas.

The leisure time has changed as people habits did too. The efficiency which characterizes our working facilities needs to find the same results in facilities we use when we don’t work. Architecture can create laboratories where people go to have fun together or alone, places where people can spend 1 day or 1 hour depending on how much time they have to enjoy. This kind of building needs to be well connected to the infrastructure and right in the center of all the urban life. Vibrant areas which shapes new urban public occasions.




Theme parks work as villages. They have usually one main gate and they creates primary and secondary axis of circulation. The theme park system always works as one main director composed by different parts. All the different attractions are connected between each-others and their location is often choose by theme decisions. The paths are studied to accommodate the visitors and to guide them through the park.

In between the carousels there are service facilities for the users such as bar, restaurants or shops. Most of the time the hierarchy of the flows is controlled by squares placed in specific parts of the park.




When accommodating a typology used to deal with a desolate landscape in a dense urban fabric, the program such as the circulation need to adapt themselves to the context and the need of the users.

The new challenge is the verticality. Not all the activities touch the ground. The horizontal circulation is cut by vertical movements. To make this ‘machine of leisure’ working all the activities need to be considered as autonomous attractions in which the user can enjoy. Every branch of the building is independent from the others except from the info/tickets points.

The ground floors needs to be connected to the outside activities but also the starting point for the laboratory of fun. There the user can choose how he wants to experience the mountain and so which tickets he needs. This ‘leisure machine’ would be open to locals and non-locals, but meanwhile for non-locals it can become a unique occasion, it can be part of the daily life of locals  

The new typology is: THE LABORATORY OF FUN


TIME_ The user can actually choose how much time they want to spend in this building. The activities all together can require a day or two but a singular activity can last around 1 hour. The street invade the building making it a collection of different autonomous activities. This building is not intended as a weekend attraction but more as a daily pill of fun.



FLEXIBILITY_ The areas are arranged in order to host different activities, but at the same time they don’t work as fixed carousels next to each-others. This boxes can be changed and adapted through the needs. The hanging structure can allow the floors to be modified moved or removed. The flexibility of spaces is controlled by moving walls which can create different activity containers



USERS_ adults need fun, business men needs fun. The users are not just family or children but adults and workers which can play activities oriented to them. Activities which can also be helpful to build team knowledge and better connections with clients.  The users can experience this building as single or as a group, promoting new meetings or strengthen old ones.





People identify themselves with the place where they live in. The image of a building is really important because the view is the sense from which buildings are mainly perceived by people. Juhani Pallasmaa (2000) claims that today’s architecture is primarily or even dominantly based on the visual. In his opinion buildings are ‘.. Images of immediate persuasion’. Architectural interventions become often an occasion to create new symbols for the city. New typologies have to embrace new needs but also to add a value to the place where they stand. Chicago is made by symbols. Buildings famous all over the world not just because of what they host inside but more for their architecture. Dealing with the existing downtown of Chicago the idea is to create a new symbol different from the ones that characterize the Loop. Morphology and typology needs to create something unique.




The roof of the Urban Mountain is intended as an extension of the program on top of the building. Studying the climatic data of the area the roof is shaped in a way that the program can gain from every seasons. The roof slope is indeed designed to create in winter 4 ski slopes (2 black tracks 1 red track and 1 blue track); meanwhile in summer mountain bike tracks can be close to picnic, relaxing areas. This green canvas brings people to the roof level without losing the connection to the ground creating a privileged public space where everyone can enjoy both the view of the city and the green open air areas.  It also allows to such a big building to give back to the city even more surface than the one it occupies on the ground.