Led by Chicago-based Xavier Vendrell Studio, Team X seeks to respect, reveal and amplify the physical and experiential qualities of the authentic Navy Pier. Team X rejuvenates the Pier with a unifying system capable of evolving and changing over time, understanding that “the transformation of an existing place, done well, is responsive, organic and flexible”. A lush landscape contrasts the hardscape of Chicago, creating an urban park that functions like a plaza. Circular disks of varying circumferences puncture the landscape with various types of program and natural growth, accompanied by pocket parks, terraces and kiosks. “Horizon walk” platform attracts people to the Pier’s edge, as it the final destination that offers unobstructed views of Lake Michigan. Continue reading for more!
As required by the Navy Pier Centennial Vision, Team X focuses on these key spaces: Gateway Park, Crystal Garden, Pier Park, South Dock and East End Park. The new Pierscape proposed by Team X offers access to all existing programs and activities, while creating opportunities for new ones. Elements featured in the design offer more than one function, aiming to create a 21st century pier that is “contemporary: viable: sustainable: enduring: flexible: evolving.” “Indelible Magic: In our Design Approach and Philosophy submitted in Phase II of the Pierscape proposal process, we stated that Joseph Cornell and his miraculous boxes would be on our minds as we set about surveying the myriad spaces, environs, landscapes, activities and programs that exemplify the Navy Pier experience. There is always more than meets the eye, so one must look with imagination. We approached the Pier imagining ourselves wandering through an array of Cornell boxes—transforming everyday objects into extraordinary treasures by virtue of juxtaposition and new relationships. Navy Pier is inherently magical, thanks to its physical and elemental characteristics, its location on Lake Michigan, its proximity to the urban core of Chicago, and the breadth of its programming. Our project combines that which is intrinsic to the Pier—historically, architectonically, spatially, experientially—with new elements that reinvigorate the indelible magic that is Chicago’s Navy Pier.”
Gateway Park: “The contrast between the hardscape of the city and the lush landscape of Gateway Park is palatable, even for visitors arriving in vehicles.” A veritable forest of trees were selected for their unique visual characteristics, vibrant fall colors, distinct bark, winter fruits and spring blooms.
Circular openings punctuate the hardscape with varying circumferences organized to articulate multi-directional pathways through Gateway Park. “In this way, the space functions like a plaza, but it is most definitely a park.” A strategic layout of dense forest, clearings and hardscape makes room for an artist commissioned fountain, the Navy Memorial, an artist designed children’s playground and much more.
The southern section of Gateway Park features large public spaces, including a recessed circular amphitheater that can function as a hot air balloon launching pad. The sloped topography offers unobstructed views of the lake, offering a perfect place to watch fireworks, view movies projected from a screen on a barge docked in the lake, or sled during the winter. Visitors can rent kayaks or bikes from a kiosk on the waters edge or near the bike trails.
Crystal Garden and Pier Park: The proposal unifies Crystal Garden and Pier Park and transforms it into the largest outdoor terrace in Chicago, rising 25 feet about the Pier’s surface. “It’s centerpiece, the magnificent Ferris wheel, the grand scale of which can now be fully perceived.” The platform appears to float above the Pier, as the north and south edges step-up, providing a social space clear of railings. The circular organizing disks return, each offering a different experience and a verdant micro-environment that appeals to the senses. “Each disk embodies a different ambient experience—sensorial: physical: ethereal: visceral.”
“The selection of trees is based on a number of factors, including: shape, canopy height, bark color and texture, leaf shape, how the tree filters light, its autumnal palette, and how the trees will be planted: densely, sparsely, naturally, or according to a strict geometry. The corresponding ground cover is contrastive in color and texture.”
South Dock: “Our proposal reintroduces a system of organization that existed when the Pier was an active port: the length of the Pier is divided into 3 bands of activity. The middle band is dedicated to pedestrian movement along the Pier: strolling: wandering: discovering. The outermost band along the water’s edge is dedicated to the various transactional programs offered on South Dock: anticipatory: interactive. The innermost band is dedicated to outdoor facilities of indoor programs: terraces: refreshment: relaxation. It is also threshold to the quietude introduced by the proposed Pocket Parks.”
South Dock connects all the pieces. Each Pocket Park offers a “one-of-a-king multi-senory experience such as a shallow soil landscape introducing vegetation and wood types indigenous to the Great Lakes region, a place of respite, intimate community, or a peaceful place providing a view of South Dock activities and the lake.”
Hardscape is a unifying element and integrated strategy of wayfinding. Minimalist multifunctional light boxes become kiosks that consolidate vendors, lighting, signage and promotional messaging, reminiscent of the large packing crates that once took over the Pier.
East End Park: East End Park is the culmination of a journey, the unrivalled public space that attracts all visitors. Existing obstructions are removed, offering clear and open view of Lake Michigan. A modest raise in the platform slopes upward toward the sky. Movable planters and light cubes incorporate additional vegetation that is able to transform the platform each season. “Horizon Walk” by artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle serves as a sculpture, landscape and stage, and offers one example on how the platform may be transformed throughout time.
“Opportunities for solitary reflection are rare, and chances of discovery and self-discovery even more elusive. ‘Horizon Walk’ is an elegant occasion where all of this is possible: beyond the east end of Navy Pier.”