New award for Chicago's Riverwalk

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The Chicago Riverwalk, which has recently been given an Honor Award by the American Society of Landscape Architects, aims to reclaim the Chicago River for the economic, ecological and recreational benefit of the city.

Spanning six blocks between Chicago’s State Street and Lake Street, and three and a half acres, the Riverwalk was a joint effort between Ross Barney Architects and landscape architects Sasaki.

Each block has its own unique landscape design. Sasaki designed the Jetty with floating wetland gardens and piers, as well as the tree-lined Marina Plaza which includes restaurants and outdoor seating. They are also responsible for the Cove, where an angled deck wraps around a series of benches and there’s a space for kayak rentals and docking.

 The Chicago Riverwalk covers six blocks. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography

The Chicago Riverwalk covers six blocks. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography

Ross Barney Architects created the River Theatre, which includes auditorium-style seating in the form of a sculptural staircase connecting Upper Wacker Drive and the Riverwalk, as well as plenty of trees for shade and greenery. They also developed the Water Plaza, which presents a series of fountains offering engagement with water at the river’s edge.

The Riverbank creates a new marine edge while providing a walkway with continuous access to Lake Street, and five bridges span the river at right-angles to the boardwalk.

 The river bank creates a new marine edge. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography

The river bank creates a new marine edge. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography

The design had to work around the Chicago River’s annual flood dynamics, and within a 25-foot-wide built-out area.

 The Riverwalk was a joint effort between Ross Barney Architects and landscape architects Sasaki Associates. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography.

The Riverwalk was a joint effort between Ross Barney Architects and landscape architects Sasaki Associates. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography.

Paving choices were made to mirror their existing context; the Beaux-Arts style of architecture along Wacker Drive is complemented by refined cut stone, whereas the lower parts of the development, running along the underside of the exposed steel bridges, utilises precast plank.

 The river walk delivers a range of activities for residents and visitors. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography.

The river walk delivers a range of activities for residents and visitors. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography.

Sasaki states that, “as a new connected path system, the Chicago Riverwalk design provides both continuity and variety for a park visitor. The district programs and forms of each typological space allow for diverse experiences on the river ranging from dining opportunities to expansive public event programming to new amenities for human-powered craft. At the same time, design materials, details, and repeated forms provide visual cohesion along the entire length of the project.”

 The Chicago Riverwalk by night. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography.

The Chicago Riverwalk by night. Image credit - Christian Phillips Photography.

Their development has provided a green refuge in the centre of Chicago, and delivers a range of activities for visitors and locals alike.

Watch the video below to get a sense of a day in the life of the Chicago Riverwalk.