Navy Pier Pierscape finalists’ proposals unveiled | Photos
Navy Pier Inc. revealed five proposals to redesign its (in)famous attraction during public presentations at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tuesday and Wednesday.
While I can’t understand why the finalists didn’t include the “15 fantastical fixes for Navy Pier” that TOC floated in March 2011, the five impressive teams—selected from a pool of 52—have good ideas for renovating the pier’s outdoor public spaces, collectively dubbed Pierscape. Read my roundup after the jump:
Every team emphasized improving the South Dock’s promenade to ease congestion, and sprucing up Gateway Park to make Navy Pier feel more connected to the city. Here are a few more of their ideas. Their complete proposals are on view at the Chicago Architecture Foundation and 14 other locations around the city; visit navypiervision.com for more information.
AECOM / Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) places an aquaponic vertical urban farm in the Crystal Gardens, which would provide food for Navy Pier’s restaurants. (Surely not Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Bar & Grill?) The team incorporates the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s planned extension into a manmade hill suitable for people-watching or sledding, depending on the season; visitors can descend via a giant slide. A “loyalty program” app enables people to control a snazzy fountain at the pier’s East End and post messages on a screen incorporated into the Ferris wheel. AECOM / BIG swears it can deliver these improvements, among other features, within Pierscape’s $85 million budget.
Davis Brody Bond / Aedas Architects / Martha Schwartz Partners would install a wave fountain and wetland in Gateway Park. (The wetland would be used as a teaching tool, in conjunction with the Chicago Children’s Museum.) The team extends the South Dock into the water with floating gardens where visitors can watch performances—or just relax. The East End gets a “giant civic hot tub,” open even in winter, and a sci-fi-looking elevated gondola called the PierPod transports people to the pier from downtown Chicago. Unfortunately, $85 million only covers the first phase of this plan, which includes the wetland and upgrades to the promenade. The floating gardens (my favorite feature) and hot tub would have to wait for the $120-plus-million Phase 3. By the time the PierPod is finished, I suspect we’ll be using jetpacks anyway.
James Corner Field Operations notes Navy Pier’s similarity to another “linear project:” New York’s High Line, which it codesigned. Its team gives the East End a floating swimming pool that would transform into a skating rink or hot tub in winter. Beyond it, a platform in the lake accommodates performances. Within the Crystal Gardens, JCFO installs surreal hanging gardens in shiny Bean-like planters, which could be lowered to the building’s floor to become an exciting environment for kids. Corner says his team can execute its plans without exceeding the budget.
!melk / HOK / UrbanLab smooths the South Dock’s promenade into a gentle slope. At the East End, the Edge includes an Olympic-size swimming pool and a glassed-in platform extending ten feet below lake level so visitors can view a fish habitat (hey!). The Glacier, a 200-foot-high steel structure in the lake, would be a new landmark suitable for climbing, according to the renderings. The team admits its whole vision would cost a whopping $300 million; the $100-million first phase would include improving the South Dock, the Shikaakwa Gardens (a revamped combination of Pier Park and the Crystal Gardens) and the Edge.
While a few teams include artists, Team X (Xavier Vendrell Studio/Grimshaw Architects) impressed me by recruiting Creative Time president Anne Pasternak, who suggests Navy Pier could attract a new audience by hosting regular exhibitions of temporary public art—which wouldn’t mean static sculptures on plinths, she promises. A key component of their proposal is Chicago artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s Horizon Walk, a 200-foot-long platform that cantilevers from the East End over the lake, offering stunning views of the lake and the city. Team X’s proposal is my favorite, but they also acknowledged that $85 million wouldn’t fund all of their ideas. During a first phase costing $88 million to $125 million, their priority would be fixing Gateway Park.
During the public presentations, audience members asked how the design teams would cope with overcrowding, address the poor quality of the lake water, minimize the environmental impact of their projects, and ensure that people with limited mobility can walk all the way to the East End. None of the teams answered these questions to my satisfaction. Given how much the High Line cost ($150 million and counting), I doubt JCFO's plan—or AECOM / BIG's extreme scheme—can really be completed for $85 million. Still, any of these proposals would make Navy Pier a fun place to visit, so I'm eager to see which one is chosen.
Navy Pier Inc. solicits comments on the proposals at email@example.com.