Navy Pier Pierscape finalist: Davis Brody Bond & Aedas Architects & Martha Schwartz Partners


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.

Aedas ArchitectsDavis Brody Bond and Martha Schwartz Partners proposalPierESCAPE goes beyond the Navy Pier Centennial Vision as it aims to strengthen the connections between water, land, nature, city, culture, civic space and infrastructure with a “series of dock-like extensions”. The proposal respects the history of the Pier while identifying unique opportunities that will them to create a 21st century waterfront experience that is both a historical and contemporary destination.

PierESCAPE envisions Navy Pier as a world-class urban landscape that protects Lake Michigan, promotes economic growth and creates an escape for the people of . Entertainment, recreation, culture and ecology weave together to create places that are “exciting, enriching, and sustainable.” The Pier will offer an expanded list of activities and destinations that will appeal to the people of  and tourists, enticing them to revisit the Pier again and again, throughout the year.

“Our goal will be to achieve a higher degree of integration between the Pierscape and all existing, new and proposed buildings”

Key aspects of the design include:

  • Crossing the Waters into Gateway Park
  • Taking it over the edge into South Dock Park
  • Getting Up to Get Down at Pier Park
  • Going Through the Looking Glass in Crystal Garden
  • Taking the Plunge at East Edge Park
As visitors cross the entry plaza threshold of the Wetland Stream, they are immediately confronted with a range of interactive spaces that commemorate the natural condition of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Gateway Plaza, the Bus Plaza and the Wetland Garden are the three main components that welcome visitors to Navy Pier.
 Referred to as the Porch, South Dock serves as the unifying public space that stretches the entire length of the Pier and connects it back to the city. It is the “route of procession” that docks all the program and activities. At night, slender stainless steel channels, known as “lightowers”, mimic the Chicago skyline and illuminate the pedestrian promenade. The South-facing pathway overlooks the floating gardens, a major civic space offered in this proposal.
The gardens transform the city’s edge, creating a “greater fusion between infrastructure and the environment”, while accommodating for spaces of play, culture and relaxation. These series of iconic spaces create an intensified connection to the water with geometry inspired by the greater Chicago area. An existing wall of boats is removed and relocated into specified docking area, keeping the lakefront open, free and clear.
A grand staircase brings you up to Pier Park. A complex mixture of rides, theaters, outdoor spaces and much more is integrated into an area focused on interactive play. A new topography in The Crystal Garden creates a wonderland of outdoor spaces that provide an “art exhibit of play”.
The East Edge Park breaks the visitor away from the Pier and allows them to “take a plunge”. The lagoon features a year round public spa that allows people to directly interact with the lake, during any season. The wooden deck steps down into the water, creating a park during the summer and a space for ice skating during the winter.
This complex, yet organized proposal even features a Pier Pod that would serve as both a “spectacle” and mode of transformation. This Gondola experience would not be included in the 85 million budget.

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