A frame on the city

The B-SEEN Kiosk concept enlivens the Chicago Lakefront

The lakefront is essential to Chicago’s identity. Today, it is both a hotspot for cultural and outdoor activity and an unparalleled aesthetic amenity. Our goal with B-SEEN was to design a structural object which would ‘be seen’ as an attractive architectural addition to the lakefront as well as a functioning, adaptable point-of-sale for various commercial or cultural initiatives for the city. The B-SEEN Kiosk creates a form that frames and filters one’s view of the city and its lakefront, as well as carves out space for adaptable activities which enliven the experience of the lakeshore.

Designed by a team of early career VOA architects and designers (Rachna Bhatia, Jess Libby, Daniel Massaro, Alex Tsaparis) with advice from Senior Associate Clint Moewe and in partnership with Connor Bruns and Eric Twomey of national engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH), the B-SEEN Kiosk was submitted to the Chicago Architecture Biennial lakefront kiosks competition. The kiosk design team is a diverse group bringing with it varying levels of experience in a diverse array of building types and projects. The B-SEEN was developed via after-hours charrettes and work sessions by this volunteer studio group and our engineering partners.


We’ve created the B-SEEN Kiosk with two aspects of the lakefront in mind: the visual appeal of nature and the need for a leisure setting showcasing culture. Designed as a contemporary and progressive structure fitting for a city renowned for its design, B-SEEN is intended to draw focus on the lakefront’s offerings and also serve as a focal point for new programming and services. The B-SEEN Kiosk is designed to further activate the lakefront with commercial and cultural offerings, while doubling as a refined vantage point and a framing device for experiencing the beauty of ambling lakefront. Its form acknowledges Lake Michigan’s horizon as a strong backdrop as well as the city’s vertical skyline. B-SEEN’s horizontal slats gradually give way to a center space with an organic form, echoing the lake’s imprint on the shoreline. B-SEEN features sliding screens which enable further transformation as needed.

The B-SEEN Kiosk is comprised of a structural steel frame which can incorporate functional and interchangeable slats of wood or steel. This structure can accommodate different skins, depending on use and season. Its screens are formed from horizontal slats to create a permeable frame for viewing the city. These screens can move like an oculus according to the needs of the programmatic activity.


The B-SEEN Kiosk is a durable, economical and quickly deployable structure. It can easily be set-up, configured and customized to activate lakefront areas as needed. B-SEEN can be opened and closed as required. Open, it lets light in and invites the public in. Closed, it can confine the area for activity or serve as a secure space for commercial and retail activity. It can even be configured as a more compact, unoccupied media kiosk.

The B-SEEN Kiosk adapts to location, time-of-day and the four seasons as experienced on the lakefront. Its function changes throughout the year, accommodating retail vendors (spring), performing DJs (summer festival season), a green grocer (fall harvest) and as an art installation-like light-filled beacon (winter). Through its combination of solid and void horizontal forms, the B-SEEN Kiosk can transform itself.


The structure can be transported in the back of a truck and assembled from its pre-fabricated parts on site. It is designed to adapt to various locations on the lakefront network and to draw attention and activation to underutilized spaces within the hierarchy of park features. It can be deployed as a dog play structure, used as a media kiosk in its closed compact arrangement and as an open theater in the Theater on the Lake area.

Cultural programming
Just as Millennium Park showcases international art and design from internationally-recognized designers on a large scale, the B-SEEN Kiosk was designed as a small scale venue for homegrown Chicago culture. The design team envisioned it as a venue for “Voice for the City,” a stage for street performers, local amateur musicians and artists, inspired by the original meaning of ‘Vaudeville.’


On “off days” when no performance is scheduled, the B-SEEN Kiosk will host open mic sessions, spontaneous performances and serve as a showcase for new talent. In the winter, it can heated space for performers with operable heat lamp (reminiscent of the CTA) while offering itself as a glowing, welcoming beacon on the frosty shores of Lake Michigan.

We designed the kiosk to respond to the lakefront’s natural attributes, Chicago’s iconic vertical skyline and the site’s significance in the city’s cultural life and leisure. The B-SEEN is a platform and venue with a contemporary aesthetic form fitting to this dynamic and beautiful setting. It celebrates all aspects of the lakefront.

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