James R. Thompson Center

Connecting people to community resources and destinations through transit infrastructure becoming the central welcome to the city.

Facing the threat of demolition, the James R. Thompson Center competition sought solutions to save the iconic Chicago landmark.

LJC’s concept imagines the building as the Gateway for two primary audiences, Chicago residents and tourists. Connecting people through a re-imagined CTA station, Terminal Pavilion, and an express train line to O’Hare and Midway – the Thompson Center becomes positioned as the central welcome to the city.

The Thompson Center proposal connects people to community resources and destinations through a transit infrastructure and community programming at one of Chicago’s most recognizable architectural landmarks.

Opening the ground floor reveals an open-air market and new pavilion that houses a year-round public plaza, subterranean access to the terminal level, and a public pedway system. The community program is connected by new year-round green space bridges that provide internal and external views. Each bridge bands community programs together on shared floors. The new high-performance enclosure system minimizes the atrium, provides comfort and transparency for users, and reduces the overall load on the MEP systems, decreasing operation costs.

The exterior plaza level opens to the new transit pavilion, spilling down into a terminal arcade that acts as a transit hub for commuters. A new platform level can be seen below, making a clear and intuitive connection between users.

The pavilion recognizes Helmut Jahn’s original intent of a layered subterranean experience connecting Chicago’s transit and pedway. The new design opens the existing arrival and departure level to create three distinct experiences: Plaza Entry Level, Terminal Level, and Arrival and Departure Level. The terminal pavilion honors and enhances Jahn’s layering of space, allowing locals and visitors to cross paths.

Its direct access to six train lines, buses, and divvy stations makes it the perfect location for programs that can support Chicago’s diverse communities. Pairing public programs with retail, services, transit, and leasable area creates a balanced ecosystem that brings locals and visitors together in one communal place.


James R. Thompson Center


Chicago, IL


905,000 SF


  • Architecture
  • Landscape Architecture