Omni Ecosystems was thrilled to contribute to this year's River Edge Ideas Lab, an exhibit for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Omni closely collaborated with architecture firm Perkins + Will on a conceptual, exciting design that would extend the riverwalk and re-animate the Chicago River. Their combined vision—titled Third Nature— creates harmony between the area’s built environment and ecological assets. Their strategy imagines Chicago’s first riverside beach, a vertically oscillating plaza and a wetland water filtration system among other forward-thinking concepts.
For the exhibit, the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development and the Metropolitan Planning Planning Council invited nine world-class architecture and landscape architecture firms to develop ideas for three sites along the river: the Civic Opera Edge, the Congress Parkway Edge, and the the Air Line Bridge Edge.
“We developed overarching principles, and dove into what makes each site unique, and explore ways to celebrate that,“ said Michael Skowlund, Omni’s Director of Landscape Architecture who partnered on the project.
For years, the Chicago river edge has been zoned industrial, lined with freight rail, grain towers, steel & lumber yards and other hallmarks of the city’s fierce and notorious industrialization.
Pre-industrialization, the unadulterated landscape looked much different. Tallgrass prairies, beach dunes, dense forest and wetland marshes were among the ecological treasures bordering the river.
Merging these histories—alternatively known as First Nature and Second Nature— informed their prospective design, Skowlund said.
Although conceptual, the ideas could have a real impact on future development along the river. The vision along with public feedback will help inform the city’s new river edge design guidelines.
The ideas exhibit also aligns with the MPC Our Great Rivers action-agenda which calls for the Chicago River to be a more inviting, productive and livable landscape by 2040.
“There is a push to make the Chicago River an amenity— a space people can access and engage. It is transforming from an industrial river into a recreational river,” Skowlund said. “This is an exciting opportunity to help shape that future!”
The ideas exhibit is free and open to the public. Residents are highly encouraged to voice their opinions and provide feedback in person or online.