James Corner Field Operations Tapped to Lead Redesign of Chicago’s Navy Pier
March 19, 2012
Leave it to James Corner to see a crumbling piece of infrastructure and envision a tastefully refurbished tourist attraction. The landscape architecture firm that co-designed New York’s beloved High Line was selected this past Thursday to lead the redesign of Chicago’s Navy Pier, beating out five other teams in the competition to take an $85 million budget and revitalize Chicago’s 3,000-foot-long lakefront pier into a world class public space.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, Corner’s proposal, which “wisely accepted the pier as a pier,” stood in contrast to its competing “grandiose and budget-busting plans,” many of which called for dramatic, new sculptural forms or complete overhauls of the original design. With the modest budget in mind, Corner and his team maintained the shape and circulation of the pier, tweaking the design to rid it of its kitschy aspects and replacing them with new, more discreet attractions, including smartly designed concrete planks, hanging gardens introduced into the existing Crystal Garden, and an alluring “floating pool” on the less visited east end of the pier.
Corner stressed that he is not looking to replicate the popular features of New York’s converted rail line in his design for Chicago’s revamped pier. However, like the High Line, the Navy Pier is expected to be built in phases, and in each phase, the design team will have to wrestle with the limitations of their tight budget. Though the design is modest in comparison with its competitors, any project of this scope faces the heavy compromises of hard-lined pragmatism. After all, pier officials were careful to emphasize that the competition was to select a designer, not a design. The city hopes to have the project completed in 2016 in time for the pier’s centennial celebration.
[All images courtesy the architects, via The Chicago Tribune]