For the past several years the Chicago Park District and the City of Chicago have been working on appropriate uses for Northerly Island, a 91-acre man-made peninsula in Chicago, Illinois. The lakefront site branches off from Museum Campus, a section along Lake Michigan that is home to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. Serving as an expansion to these cultural programs, Studio Gang Architects, in collaboration with SmithGroupJJR, have created an innovative design that integrates educational, cultural, social, and recreational activities into Northerly Island.
Read more about Northerly Island’s future after the break!
The design transforms Northerly Island into an ecologically diverse park. The island will be unique compared to Chicago’s other lakefront environments with the addition of lagoons, seasonal ponds, fishing coves, and many other water-scapes. Plans also include a dense forest, savannah, and prairie. Without even leaving the city, visitors can retreat to the island to swim in the lake, camp in the forest, view art installations, and hike on its miles of paths.
Northerly Island Park’s barrier reef will create a soft, green lakefront edge. Kayaking, snorkeling, and diving are all future activities and programs of the site. The reef system is not only recreational but will also be an investment in the health of Lake Michigan’s ecosystems. This major ecological addition includes 12 acres of fish spawning habitat, 40 acres of migratory bird habitat, and 19 acres of wetland.
In order to maintain such a large urban park filled with a variety of habitats, revenue generation is efficiently integrated into the plan. A music amphitheater, retail and concessions along the Harbor Walk, along with an Education Center and Event Pavilion on the Great Lawn, are all venues that help make the park economically practical. The amphitheater will be able to seat 12,000 to 14,000 fans for concerts and events, but will also serve many other functions. For example, it will incorporate star-gazing structures as an expansion of Adler Planetarium. In the wintertime, the theater can be used as a large ice skating rink.
Sustainability guides the overall design. Northerly Island Park will be an example to the world through its financial viability, reduced energy use, and its energy production. Its location on Lake Michigan creates an opportunity for incorporating renewable energy. Emerging technology that captures the energy of waves will aid in powering facilities on the island. In addition, collected and filtered rainwater will be used to replenish the island’s landscape and wetland elements.
Studio Gang believes that Northerly Island will play a pivotal role in education, social, and cultural activities. Chicago’s worldwide leadership in urban environmentalism will be greatly enhanced through the island’s expansive park design. Ground was broken this past fall, and Phase I anticipates completion in 2015.