Reclaimed Land

Location: Chicago, IL
Public Open Space

The Burnham Plan of 1909 called for a preserved strip of landscape along Lake Michigan. This strip represents openness and escapism for the denizens and tourists of Chicago. If there were a Burnham section to go along with the plan we could see that Burnham’s idea of “slopes leading down to the water,” has been violated by the current conditions. This proposal, Reclaimed Land, re-thinks the sectional relationship of open, public space. The landscape between the road and the lake is positioned on axis to Buckingham Fountain, forming a bridge for the concentration of people in Grant Park. The proposal provides a greater sense of the organic polycentrism understood in deep open parks rather than the funneled concentration through portals provided to link most major spaces on the lakefront. Landscape elements are positioned and earth is contoured in such a way to buffer view of the highway while extending views to the sky and the lake.

Elements on top of the bridge such as perennials and paths can be repositioned based on events and seasonal activities. Vegetation closer to the lake would be more permanent to emulate typical lakefront ecosystems. From low grass to bushes and trees to wetland vegetation, the landscape finally spills over the existing wall at the lake for a gradual beachfront made of sandy dirt material. Structural poles from below penetrate the landscape as utility poles for lighting and electricity. Electricity is provided by the solar canopy which emerges from within the space frame structure to extend toward the lake as a covered space.

Two structural systems support the bridge. The primary structural system comprises of (2) long span trusses that cross the length of Lake Shore Drive and cantilever beyond two massive piers adjacent to the existing stair. Made possible by the cantilever, the structure stops short of the ground as it culminates near Buckingham Fountain and planks extend from the trusses to form paths. The secondary structure is a faceted space frame which moves according to the required thicknesses of the earth for root systems of the plantings.