Posts tagged with "Ross Barney Architects":

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The Rock ’N’ Roll McDonald’s replacement opens in Chicago

Eight months after Chicago’s iconic Rock ’N’ Roll McDonald’s was torn down (likely to the chagrin of the late Wesley Willis, who immortalized the building in song), the Ross Barney Architects-designed replacement has opened. The new building in River North bucks the campy, retro look of the original 1983 building, which was hemmed in by golden arches on either side. Instead, Chicago native Carol Ross Barney has designed the flagship McDonald’s with an eye towards sustainability and airiness as part of the company’s McDonald’s of the Future rebranding. The corporate offices have paid for the entire project instead of the local franchisee as part of a wide-ranging renovation scheme, including the installation of self-ordering kiosks, that will affect locations across the U.S. through 2020. Carol Ross Barney’s design wraps an industrial steel-and-solar-panel canvas around the central building, recalling Renzo Piano’s most recent institutional projects. The new McDonald’s is only 19,000 square feet and a single story, which is 20 percent more compact than its predecessor, but the ceiling soars to 27 feet high. Cross-laminated timber was used for the building’s roof and was left exposed on the underside. McDonald’s is heavily touting the project’s sustainability bonafides. Carol Ross Barney also designed the building’s HVAC system and kitchen to use less electricity, and a McDonald’s representative claims that the new store uses 50 percent less energy than its rock and rolling forbearer. The serrated solar pergola shades the plaza around the entrances and is expected to generate up to 60 percent of the building’s electricity needs. Plants have been integrated throughout the project site as well as inside of the building, and diners can eat under cascading green walls suspended from the ceiling. A sunken green roof in the middle of the restaurant provides guests with views of the apple trees, arugula, broccoli, kale, and native grasses being grown on the building’s exterior; McDonald’s has said that over 20,000 square feet of the site is landscaped. It’s more metal than rock and roll, but as of yesterday Chicagoans can once again get their burger fix in River North. As of August 8, the McDonalds will be open 24/7.
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A look at Ross Barney Architects’ civic and urban design

“I want you to give me the problem that you think does not have a reasonable solution,” quipped Carol Ross Barney in her bright, two-story lofted space in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. No list of influential Chicago architects is complete without Barney’s name. The head of the eponymous Ross Barney Architects, Barney has become the go-to for civic projects throughout Chicago and the Midwest. In the past forty-plus years she has gathered over 100 design awards, including national and local AIA honor awards, the AIA Illinois Gold Medal, and most recently AIA Chicago’s highest honor, the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. Her office is filled with models and one-to-one mock-ups of projects ranging from public transit stations to million-square-foot airport facilities. At around 25 employees, the studio is very hands-on. “I just love the idea of making ideas and sharing them, and that extends to the studio,” Barney said. “In the past, we would trade concepts, you would work on a concept for a few weeks, and then we would trade projects.” The office is, unsurprisingly, filled with young architects, considering Barney has taught at either IIT or the University of Illinois Chicago consistently since the late- 1970s. She has also taken part in the AIA Chicago Bridge Program, which provides young ambitious architects with AIA fellows as direct mentors. “I was born into this role. I’m the oldest of eight children. I had a built-in responsibility,” Barney joked. “It has always been something that is very rewarding, but also fascinating to see the choices people make and why they make them.” CTA Cermak-McCormick Place Station Built to serve the largest convention center in the country, the station is built without disrupting train traffic on a narrow right of way. The station includes a perforated stainless-steel and polycarbonate tube, which provides protection from wind and rain while leaving the platform completely free of supports. Glazed masonry units and granite finishes on the interior allow simple maintenance, and the station replaces one that has been closed since 1978. Oklahoma City Federal Building Located just two blocks from the Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed in a domestic terrorist attack in 1995, the design of the Oklahoma City Federal Building needed to acknowledge the memory of those who were killed while looking to the future. The 185,000-square-foot project was designed to maintain a sense of openness while adhering to the most stringent security measures. The building was created in collaboration with the Benham Group and Sasaki, with a water featured designed by Brad Goldberg. Lincoln Park Zoo As a new entryway for the country’s largest free zoo, Ross Barney’s design incorporates an information center and gate. Special care had to be taken in designing the gate, as standards for keeping animals in (in the unlikely case of an escape) are more stringent than those to keep humans out. Ross Barney produced numerous one-to-one mockups in studio as proof of concept for the ornately patterned portal. With operable walls, the information center can transform from an interior space to an exterior in pleasant weather. Chicago Riverwalk One of the most awarded recent projects in Chicago, the Riverwalk is part of a long-term effort by the city to enhance the public’s relationship with the water. In collaboration with Sasaki, Ross Barney oversaw the three-phase project, over the past decade. Comprised of multiple “rooms,” each section of the Riverwalk provides a different experience from a grand stair, to restaurants, and a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Thanks to the success of the project, plans are being discussed to continue the Riverwalk further through the city.
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Carol Ross Barney to design Rock ‘N’ Roll McDonald’s replacement

Carol Ross Barney, the Chicago architect behind the city's acclaimed Riverwalk, is now tackling a totally different project: a flagship McDonald’s in River North. The glass, steel, and timber structure will replace the just-demolished Rock 'N' Roll McDonald's on the same site. At 19,000 square feet and one story, it's about 20 percent smaller and a floor shorter than its beloved predecessor, which was famous for its giant double arches and on-site memorabilia museum. While the Rock 'N' Roll McDonald's featured a two-lane drive-thru and ample parking, the new McD's welcomes pedestrians into burger heaven with a grassy outdoor plaza shaded by 70 trees and a sawtooth canopy reminiscent of a fancy truck stop. Inside, ferns and white birch trees will float in a ring of glass above customers as they place their orders, and diners can crush Big Macs beneath a living wall. The kitchen, which is the only part of the McDonald's left over from the old building, will be planted with apple trees. Although customers will still be using plastic utensils to eat out of disposable containers, the building will be energy-efficient. Its roof will sport solar panels, and Barney's firm is designing the HVAC system, as well as the all-important fryers, to use less non-renewable energy. “It’s so interesting to work on a project like this because you’re designing for an icon,” Barney told the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the story. The redesign is part of McDonald’s corporate rebranding that emphasizes sleekness over kitsch. The company, not the franchise owner, is paying for most of the new building, part of a $2.4 billion investment campaign that's mostly focused on changing the customer experience in its U.S. restaurants through 2020. This year, 4,000 outlets in the state will be renovated to include new-ish devices like self-order kiosks, plus new service options like delivery and curbside pickup.  
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Here are the winners of the 2018 AIA Honor Awards in regional and urban design

[Editor’s Note: This the third in a three-part series documenting the winners of the AIA 2018 Honor Awards, which are broken down into three categories: architecture, interior architecture, and urban design. This list covers the regional and urban design awards, but additional segments spotlight winners in architecture and interior architecture.] The American Institute of Architects announced its 2018 recipients of the Institute Honor Awards January 12. The 17 winners were pulled from approximately 500 submissions from across the globe and only three regional and urban design projects took home the prize. The designs range from the double-award winning Chicago Riverwalk, to frameworks for dealing with sea level rise. In one way or another, this year's notable topic was living with water. The five-person jury that selected this year’s AIA Regional and Urban Design Honor Award winners included:
  • Roger Schluntz, FAIA (Chair), School of Architecture and Planning, University of Mexico
  • Lisa Chronister, AIA, City of Oklahoma City Planning Department
  • Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, DiGeronimo Architects
  • Tim Griffin, AIA, Minnesota Design Center
  • Gerry Tierney, AIA, Perkins+Will.
  Project: Chicago Riverwalk Architect: Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates Location: Chicago From the AIA Jury: This is an exemplary urban intervention; the design and execution are perfect. The impact on the community is transformative. Project: Salty Urbanism: Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategies for Urban Areas Architect: Brooks + Scarpa, Florida Atlantic University and University of Southern California Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida From the AIA Jury: What a brilliant strategy that shows thought and sophistication. This is a series of toolboxes and frameworks giving each community a myriad of potential responses that could work for them as they work together. The nuanced, organic approach invites the community to really own a solution. These frameworks could be implemented in any community facing the dilemma of sea level rise. Project: Urban Watershed Framework Plan: A Reconciliation Landscape for Conway, Arkansas Architect: University of Arkansas Community Design Center Location: Conway, Arkansas From the AIA Jury: This was head to tail very rewarding. A thoughtful, sophisticated and holistic response to a recurring problem across the country.
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Here are the winners of the 2018 AIA Honor Awards in architecture

This is the first article in a three part series documenting the 2018 AIA Institute Honor Awards. This lists the winners of the architecture category, while additional segments contain the winners in the interior architecture and regional & urban design categories. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced the 2018 winners of the AIA Institute Honor Awards. The list contains projects from all around the world, and of varying programs and uses, and honors firms both large and small. From a girls’ school in Afghanistan to a municipal salt shed, this year’s widely diverse group of winning projects will be recognized at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 in New York City, in late June. This year's eight member jury panel included:
  • Lee Becker, FAIA (Chair), Hartman-Cox Architects
  • Anne Marie Decker, FAIA, Duvall Decker Architects
  • Susan Johnson, AIA, Strata; Anna Jones, Assoc. AIA, MOD Design
  • Caitlin Kessler, AIAS Student Representative, University of Arizona
  • Merilee Meacock, AIA, KSS Architects
  • Robert Miller, FAIA, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
  • Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation
  • Rob Rogers, FAIA, Rogers Partners.
  Project: Audain Art Museum Architect: Patkau Architects Inc. Location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada From the AIA Jury: A beautiful, dynamic project that literally wraps users around nature, blurring the boundaries between man-made and natural. It creates a cultural magnet to help educate not only art, but eco-friendly design. The elegant structure hovers over a floodplain topography in an area that receives a large amount of snowfall, battling the elements through an architectural form that embraces the setting. Opportunity for people to live with art. The typology of the building is a stepping stone for Canada, a new icon, and a monument for British Columbia. It has helped elevate all of us. Project: The Broad Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Associate Firm: Gensler Location: Los Angeles From the AIA Jury: Simultaneously sedate and spectacular. It fits the context of the visually exuberant arts buildings in this neighborhood. More than holding its own as a figure, it also engages and takes the user in. The dark body-like, shapely vault is a beautiful counterpoint to the bright, thick, patterned light veil. The design intention is clear and carried through at every scale. The types of space created are unusual but engaging and composed. Project: Chicago Riverwalk Architect: Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates Location: Chicago From the AIA Jury: A gift to city, it embraces Chicago's layered, diverse history by providing a range of amenities that provide forward looking opportunities. Transforms the once neglected downtown riverfront into a vast public space. Design that touches everyone. Subtle moments of education and insight into the ecology of the river, educating visitors and residents. It is the reinvention of urban life that brings attention back to the waterfront. Project: Gohar Khatoon Girls' School Architect: Robert Hull, FAIA, and the University of Washington, Department of Architecture Location: Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan From the AIA Jury: A beautiful and restrained aesthetic with limited means. Architecture is a modern take on Afghan history and masonry construction. This elevates respect for women and girls overall when state resources are used to this extent and design, adding an intent to create an urban oasis and promote community engagement. This space and the process communicates a new era for girls and women very powerfully. It is remarkably resourceful by integrating natural sustainability measures while operating within a weak infrastructure in the country. Project: Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 & Spring Street Salt Shed Architect: Dattner Architects in association with WXY architecture + urban design Location: New York City From the AIA Jury: The Salt storage building took what is usually an industrial construction built as economically as possible into urban art. It raises the bar significantly for civic infrastructure. Unapologetic platonic shape with beautiful skin with commitment to civic expression, environmental responsibility, and sensitivity to the urban context design solution that successfully integrates critical services into the neighborhood. The pursuit of a visual oxymoron to sanitation, and investment therein, is laudable and uplifting to an entire neighborhood and heavily used city corridor. Highly innovative. Project: Mercer Island Fire Station 92 Architect: Miller Hull Partnership Location: Mercer Island, Washington From the AIA Jury: Operations drives design and the execution is flawless. A necessary renovation turned modern reinterpretation of a traditional civic building into a simple box with layers of transparency that visually and physically connect the functions to the street. Great balance of functionality and warmth of materials make this a beautiful facility. Balanced work and relaxation are desired combo for firefighting facilities and certainly that balance is achieved here. As a public project, it is clearly a labor of love. Super judicious use of materials; great scale, sense of public awareness. Best of all this honors the incredibly hard working firefighters deserving of such a light space. Project: New United States Courthouse Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP Location: Los Angeles From the AIA Jury: The design's fascination with natural light and white spaces is nicely contrasted by the golden wood interior figures and floors. The building's form is a representation of site and topography, functionality, environmental performance, civic presence, and public spaces. Traditional materials and architectural elements enliven its civic presence, while modern elements introduced through the glass assembly façade create an iconic image for a 21st Century courthouse building while also providing positive environmental performance. This powerful composition and the generosity of its public spaces gives the project a clear civic presence, separating it from its commercial neighbors. Project: Vol Walker Hall & the Steven L. Anderson Design Center Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architects Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas From the AIA Jury: A complimentary and progressive pairing of modern and traditional forms. Consistent orchestration of natural light and a sparse but powerful use of red to make landmark moments in the building is invigorating. Sets the opportunity for an interesting contrast between the old and new wings. The expanded facility unites all three departments – architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design – under one roof for the first time, reinforcing the School’s identity and creating a cross-disciplinary, collaborative learning environment. The overall design is a didactic model, establishing a tangible discourse between the past and present while providing state-of-the-art-facilities for 21st century architectural and design education. Every space seems equally well resolved, simple, elegant Project: Washington Fruit & Produce Company Headquarters Architect: Graham Baba Architects Location: Yakima, Washington From the AIA Jury: This sits on the landscape beautifully and creates space for meaningful community. The oasis among the warehouses is functional, sustainable, spatial and formal. The design idea is integral and cohesive. An idea with depth. Occupied spaces are oriented towards the heart of the place - the courtyard, avoiding views towards the surrounding freeway and industrial warehouses; earth berms surrounding the building focalize views out to the landscape and blurring the boundary of architecture and site. The owners’ commitment to creating a respite from the industrial environment for their employees led to an exploration of curating views and outdoor spaces. The result is a workspace that encourages quiet contemplation, community and productivity.
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What is the future of the Chicago riverfront?

While many architects moon over biennials and architecture festivals, these shows are often a bit esoteric for the general public. The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) is no exception. Amidst the complex discussions and abstract installations, the average visitor may enjoy the show, but also feel a bit disconnected. However, there is one show at CAB that anyone would find accessible. Located in EXPO 72 across the street from the Chicago Cultural Center, the exhibition, Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab, presents the visions of nine firms for the Chicago River. Chicago Urban River Edges Ideas Lab was initiated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and the Metropolitan Planning Council to solicit proposals for the city’s quickly evolving riverfront. Firms participating in the show include David Adjaye, James Corner Field Operations, Perkins + Will, Ross Barney Architects, Sasaki, Site Design, SOM, Studio Gang Architects, and SWA. Each firm addressed three sites along the river with designs that ranged from outdoor theater spaces to water remediation and ecological classrooms. Other ideas included policy suggestions, such as SWA’s forest bonus, rather than a density bonus. Multiple offices proposed ways of engaging more closely with the river itself, including James Corner Field Operation’s softened edge and Perkins+Will’s riverside beach. The three sections of the river addressed by the show are the Civic Opera House, the Congress Parkway, and the Air Line Bridge. Each of these sites present different challenges which the city hopes to resolve. While large stretches of the riverfront have already been converted into the Chicago Riverwalk, there are over 156 miles that have yet to be developed or connected with public walkways and activity spaces. The initial downtown stretch of redeveloped space was designed by Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki, and was completed earlier this year. The exhibition, which was also designed by Ross Barney Architects, aims to engage public feedback and present ambitious yet feasible visions of the river’s future. Throughout, large renderings with texts allow visitors to compare proposals side by side. Those interested are directed to the project's extensive website to watch interviews with the architects, watch animated shorts about the proposals, and send commentary to the city and designers. “We thought this would be a great way to bring together a bunch of very creative folks, as well as help Chicagoans begin to imagine how this could work and what their place in it would be,” explained Josh Ellis, vice president of Metropolitan Planning Council at the exhibition opening. While the exhibition is not intended to be a competition, it is clear that each of the offices poured resources and brain power into the project. The Department of Planning and Development as well as the Mayor’s office have been explicit in their search for ideas for the future of the river. “This is just a snapshot of how serious each of these teams took this. These are meant to be ideas that can be realized,” said Clare Cahan, studio design director at Studio Gang at the opening. “There are things that will be attractive to communities, attractive to the city, and attractive to developers.”
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Carol Ross Barney will discuss the transformation of the Chicago River this Friday at NYC’s FIT

It is hard to imagine the existence of Chicago or even this country’s industrial revolution without the Chicago River. The State of Illinois's 1887 decision to reverse the flow of water from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River made it possible to move goods through the city and eventually down to the Gulf of Mexico. The river has always had a mythic, if slightly detached, relationship to Chicago until the last few years. But a recent effort has transformed the river and its constructed banks into a major public space for the city, particularly its downtown Loop. No architect has been more responsible for this transformation than Carol Ross Barney. I will be interviewing Barney about her important work transforming the riverside banks into a ‘Riverwalk’ this Friday, May 12th for NYCxDesign's NYC Design Talks. The Q&A—which is free and open to the public—will take place at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Katie Murphy Amphitheater from 3:00 to 4:00pm. See the event's webpage here for more details.
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The much-anticipated final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk is complete after years of planning and construction

It has been over a decade since Chicago began to redevelop its downtown riverfront, with Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki leading the design. With the recent completion of Phase III, the new mile-and-a-half public park known as the Riverwalk is now open. Divided into separate “rooms” between the famed bascule bridges, the Riverwalk provides a series of new programs for the downtown.

While the dream of swimming in the Chicago River is still far from reality, Chicagoans are now able to get closer to the river than ever before. Since the completion of phase two, the Riverwalk has become a favorite gathering space for downtown business people at lunchtime and a weekend hotspot for tourists. New restaurants and bars provide outdoor seating along the water, while kayaks can be rented for those looking to get up close and personal. A grand staircase-ramp between upper Wacker Drive and the river, known as the River Theater, can often be found filled with people sitting, reading, exercising, or simply people-watching. Those with their own boats can pull up to multiple tie-ups, drawing many large yachts from Lake Michigan. Part of phase three includes large floating planters, as well as one of the most anticipated additions to the Riverwalk, a large interactive water plaza. 

A major challenge in realizing the continuity of the Riverwalk was connecting the separate rooms. The seemingly simple task was made more complicated by the fact that pedestrians frequently pass under the bascule drawbridges, whose permeable decks see some of Chicago’s heaviest traffic. In order to separate the public from the mechanics of the over one-hundred-year-old bridges and shield them from any falling debris from the road above, Ross Barney Architects designed canopies to cover the floating paths between the rooms. These canopies are wrapped in metallic paneling, reflecting the dappled light off of the water.

Along with Ross Barney Architects, a large team was brought together to realize the project, including Chicago-based landscape architects Jacobs/Ryan Associates, with Massachusetts-based Sasaki acting as prime consultant. Outside of the design, Friends of the Chicago River and Great Rivers Chicago advocated for the Riverwalk. Both groups are dedicated to remediating the river, with a goal of a clean, swimmable river by 2040.

Ever since the opening of the first sections of the Riverwalk, the new park has been showered with praise and awards. This year, AIA Chicago gave the Riverwalk with its highest honor, a Distinguished Building Honor Award. In addition, the project was awarded the 2012 Divine Detail Award by AIA Chicago, the 2010 Architect magazine “Move” Citation, and AIA Illinois’s 2007 Daniel Burnham Award, among others. Most recently the Riverwalk was awarded The Architect’s Newspaper’s 2016 Urban Design Award.

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2016 Best of Design Award for Urban Design: Chicago Riverwalk, Phase 2 by Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013 Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it’s grown to 26 exciting categoriesAs in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you. 2016 Best of Design Award for Urban Design: Chicago Riverwalk, Phase 2 Architects: Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates Location: Chicago, IL

Commissioned by Chicago’s Department of Transportation and designed by Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki Associates, the Riverwalk transforms derelict urban infrastructure into a one-and-a-half-mile-long civic space, creating an activated riverfront in the heart of Chicago. Each of the project’s three phases takes on the form and program of a different river-based typology: marina, cove, and river theater. With its wine bar, kayak tours, boat docking services, water taxi stop, and dynamic public programming, the Chicago Riverwalk has virtually become the city’s outdoor living room.

Engineering Consultant Alfred Benesch & Company

Landscape Architects Jacobs / Ryan Associates Granite Coldspring Operable Storefront Solar Innovations

Honorable Mention, Urban Design: Boeddeker Park

Architect: WRNS Studio Location: San Francisco, CA

After poor design additions earned this small inner-city park the moniker “Prison Park,” the Trust for Public Land and the City of San Francisco teamed up with WRNS to create a new park and clubhouse that serves as a model of civic engagement, inspiration, resource conservation, and adaptability, while addressing the community’s needs.

Honorable Mention, Urban Design: Positioning Pullman

Architect: Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture Location: Chicago, IL

Now a neighborhood of Chicago, Pullman dates to 1880 and is the country’s first planned industrial community. Following its 2015 designation as a National Monument, a wide range of experts came together to launch Positioning Pullman, a collaborative ideas workshop to help Pullman grow into its new role and prepare for increased tourism.

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Chicago River Trail Action Plan connects Chicago with its river

In an effort to advocate for a continuous trail along vast lengths of the Chicago River, the Active Transportation Alliance recently released its Chicago River Trail Action Plan. The hope is to connect existing trails and parks throughout the city with the North and South Branches of the Chicago river. The plan outlines key steps by which the trail could be realized. Currently, about half of the Chicago River's 27 miles of riverfront have existing trails, with more trails already planned. As the downtown Chicago Riverwalk has recently been completed, the focus on improvements to the river is now shifting out into the neighborhoods. By working with community organizations in neighborhoods along the river, the Active Transportation Alliance specifically highlights seven more miles of riverfront as likely candidates for new trails. Perhaps the most notable recommendation in the Action Plan is to connect some of the city’s newest and proposed parks, as well as multiple proposed developments, to the river. If connected, the network of parks and trails would directly serve the more than 900,000 Chicagoans that live within one mile of the River. On the near north side, the 606 linear park currently stops just short of the river, while the El Paseo Trail on the near south side will have a similar situation. The current redevelopment of the former Lathrop Homes public housing projects and the anticipated redevelopment of the industrial Goose Island both are being planned with the river as a main feature. Yet building along the river is not always a simple matter. In certain sections of the river, no path can be built on land. In these areas floating or suspended decks will have to be used. The Action Plan divides the river into seven zones. Assets and opportunities for each zone are listed along with a list of actionable steps for local stakeholders to take. For many of the zones, plans have already been proposed by designers, planners, and architects. As outlined in the plan, PORT Urbanism is responsible for an intricate path that would connect the 606 park with the river trail, while Ross Barney Architects has designed other sections of the river, including the now completed downtown Riverwalk. Other input on the plan came from a variety of sources including architecture firms such as Perkins & Will, Moss Deisgn, and Hoerr Schaudt, as well as other public space advocacy groups like the Metropolitan Planning Council, the North River Commission, and the Friends of the Chicago River. The full plan can be found here.
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A new proposal would turn a stagnant abandoned Chicago waterway into a community amenity

Few people, architects or otherwise, have thought about the Chicago River as much as Ross Barney Architects. The firm’s experience includes the ever-growing Riverwalk in Chicago’s downtown, studies for the river as a transportation corridor, and extensive time spent working with the city on major infrastructural projects. When given a charge to propose a speculative project for the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards exhibition, it took the chance to expand on a project that had been floating (pun intended) around the office. The result is an urban natural space where there is currently a smelly abandoned channel in the city’s Little Village neighborhood.     

The South Side neighborhood is one of the most underserved, in terms of public space, in the entire city. Even worse, the neighborhood has the Collateral Channel, which once connected the natural channel of the Chicago River to the Shipping and Sanitation Channel. The natural Chicago River no longer exists, so the stagnant body serves no one. As the canal is no longer used, it is no longer dredged, which has led to its polluted bed having a severe methane-leeching problem. This, in turn, has prompted the local nickname of Ass Creek, due to the intolerable smell that bubbles up and wafts over Little Village.

Ross Barney Architects saw more than just a putrid nuisance in the Collateral Channel, though. Instead, the office took the opportunity to connect to a project the Chicago Department of Transportation is already spearheading called the Little Village Paseo. The Paseo is planned to be a linear park that will take the place of a former rail line through the neighborhood. So Ross Barney envisioned turning Ass Creek into Ass(et) Creek, a place where the community could directly interact with the river. Ass(et) Creek proposes to continue the Paseo to the river via the channel.

Though Ass(et) Creek is a speculative proposal, the work on the channel and the movement toward the river is already beginning. The city has started to pump water through the channel, and other studies have been done in an attempt to counteract the smell. Yet if anyone has experience with working with the river in Chicago, it is Ross Barney. The office has spent well over a decade working the city’s Riverwalk, navigating the politics and construction issues associated with building in water.

Ross Barney Architects see Ass(et) Creek as larger than just a luxury amenity. The big picture includes bringing access to clean recreation and athletic spaces to an area that needs it. From there, the firm imagines a new water-taxi stop at the site that would provide the neighborhood with a direct connection to the downtown. The relationship of Chicagoans to the river would be quickly reversed from odorous disdain to point of pride.

The vision of a Chicago River that is clean enough to swim in is shared by many, including the mayor and even President Obama. Though that day might not be right around the corner, it is coming, and Ross Barney Architects is ready to give everyone a place to jump in.

This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.

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Chris Wilkinson and John Ronan present at Facades+ conference in Chicago

One only had to glance out the window to understand why the 18th floor of Mart Plaza hotel was the perfect venue for the Chicago addition of the Facades+ Conferences. With views of 333 W. Wacker, the Willis Tower, and a handful of new towers under construction, the history of the modern facade was on display. The conversation in the symposium would be equally as rich with local and international speakers. The morning’s keynote address from Chris Wilkinson of London-based WilkinsonEyre, explored the latest in novel skin technologies from the fantastic flowing domes of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay project, to the ship like Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, UK. The diverse range of projects presented by Wilkinson were shown along with insights into the process that lead their award winning solutions. In the case of the Mary Rose Museum, the recovered Mary Rose Ship is at the center of the design literally and ideologically. In particular, special care was taken to provide the precise environmental conditions needed to preserve the 420-year-old vessel. In his afternoon keynote address, Chicago’s John Ronan of John Ronan Architects discussed the political and social impact facades can have on a neighborhood. In the case of two of the public projects presented, brightly colored panel facades at once announce the project as a neighborhood institution, while providing a physical safety barrier in areas of the city where gun violence is too often a part of a high schooler’s life. Using a similar system of metal paneling for decidedly different reasons, Ronan described the iconic nature and tranquil interior provided in his Poetry Foundation building in downtown Chicago. Ronan closed with a detailed look at the high-tech skin of the forthcoming Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at the Mies van der Rohe–designed Illinois Institute of Technology campus. The project’s inflated ETFE foil cushion skin regulates interior climate by controlling a moveable interior membrane with a variable air pressure system. Other presentations included a discussion between 2015 AIA Chicago Gold Medal winner Carol Ross Barney, architecture critic Lee Bey, and Chicago Public Building Commission Executive Director Felicia Davis, on building in the public realm for the public good.  Maged Guirguis of SOM and James Rose of the Institute for Smart Structures presented AMIE, the Additive Manufacturing/Integrated Energy project, a 3D printed house and vehicle pairing reimagining energy use. The day also included presentations from over 20 other experts in facade design, manufacturing, engineering, and the Methods + Materials gallery. Day two of the symposium included workshops and presentations from leaders in the global facade dialog, including representatives from Buro Happold, SOM, and Autodesk. The workshops provided for a hands-on, one-on-one, chance to discuss and explore the latest in facade technologies and design practices. Enrique Norten of TEN Arquitectos  and Eric Owen Moss will give keynote addresses at the next Facades+ event on January 28th29th in Los Angeles.