The Main Branch of the Chicago River is a powerfully memorable canyon of space, lined by skyscrapers and punctuated by Chicago’s iconic bascule bridges. At the start of this project in 2009, the given site lacked identity and continuity. Access to its length and its edges was limited and there was little reason for visitors to linger. The charge given to Sasaki – the prime consultant for the project – and its team was to build 25’ of new land on the river’s south side, weaving it together as a continuously connected public space.
The completed segments of the Riverwalk now create an identity for the river’s edge that is both visceral in experience and as memorable as its architectural frame. The experience is both one of variety and continuity. Variety is created by the sculptural configuration of each block or “room” that provides different kinds of river-themed uses. Continuity is provided with a unified material language threading together the six blocks.
Gina Ford was the lead designer for the Sasaki team – working closely with Ross Barney Architects to create a cohesive overall vision for these latest phases and then leading the development of concept design through implementation for a series of key spaces – the Marina (between State and Dearborn Streets), the Cove (between Dearborn and Clark) and the Jetty (between Wells and Franklin). Walking the new blocks brings an exciting unfolding of new and diverse experiences, from densely packed places of social interaction to a profoundly personal closeness to the river surface. is designed as a place of aquatic habitat, floating wetlands and fishing piers. The presence of constant change in this landscape—with the seasons and with the ever-changing flood dynamics — makes natural processes tangible for visitors.
ASLA Honor Award in Design, 2018.
AIA National Honor Award. Architecture. 2018
AIA National Honor Award. Urban Design. 2018
Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Silver Medalist. 2017
World Landscape Architecture, Award of Excellence for Built Design. 2017
AIA Chicago Chapter, Design Excellence Award, 2016
International Downtown Association. Pinnacle Award. 2016
The Waterfront Center. Excellence on the Waterfront Honor Award for Design. 2016