Chicago’s New Angular, Permeable Park

Designed by Chicago-based landscape architecture firm Site Design Group, the new 2.3-acre Adams-Sangamon park is located on the site of a former University of Illinois infirmary. Instead of using formal or even “organic” forms, the neighboring community along with the Chicago Park District and West Loop Community organization decided on an angular design, writes The Architect’s Newspaper.  The park incorporates native plants in two berms as well as a wealth of reused materials, like a “variable-height seat wall made with terra cotta lintels salvaged from the demolished infirmary.” The park also features some cutting-edge sustainable landscape technologies, including “smog-eating permeable pavers.”

The Chicago Park District spent some $19.5 million on the park, says The Chicago Tribune, because the city needed to buy the land, demolish existing buildings and construction, and clean-up the site. The result is a new showcase park: “Like Millennium Park’s Lurie Garden, it belongs to a new generation of geometrically-complex, engagingly interactive and highly-stylized urban parks that eschew the cliché of grass and a gazebo.”

Inhabitat writes that the park, which took seven years to complete, features a raised lawn in the center that provides lounging and picnic space. Diagonal paths cut across the park, providing easy access for neighbors. For hot summer days in Chicago, there’s a set of stainless steel structures that provide misting water, forming clouds people can walk or run through.

The steel structures form a path towards a 11,000-square-foot playground. Instead of trucking dirt from the excavation off-site, it was used to create mounds in the new playground. The Chicago Tribune writes: “Approaching, you see the mounds first. They endow the park with that rare thing in pancake-flat Chicago: topography. They’re tall enough to shape room-like outdoor spaces between them but not so tall that people feel hemmed-in and, thus, unsafe. The tallest of them, about seven feet high, provides a splendid lookout point from which to see the Willis Tower.”

Throughout the park, smog-eating permeable pavers used for the paths incorporate a new technology called “TX Active.” The “photocatalytic” cement material, created by a firm called Essroc, is coated over permeable pavers. The solution reacts with sunlight, oxidizing pollutants, turning them into “harmless salts,” reducing the amount of nitrix oxide in the air. Being permeable, the pavers also filter rainwater back into the soil underneath. 

The Chicago Tribune applauded the new park, but also asked: How is it that this neigborhood has a great new park while others don’t even have access to basic green space? “In a city of shrinking budgets, how does the Park District justify spending close to double its usual per-acre construction cost on this park while others go wanting for the basics? All the condos built in the West Loop spun off tax revenue that helped pay for the park, responds Gia Biagi, the district’s director of planning.” Still, the paper says the designers succeeded in creating a “dynamic green space that makes a hard-edged area of Chicago much more livable.”

Read the article and see more images at Inhabitat.

Image credit: (1) Adams-Sangamon Park / Site Design Studio / The Architect’s Newspaper, (2) Site Design Studio / Inhabitat, (3) Site Design Studio / Inhabitat, (4) Site Design Studio / Inhabitat

One thought on “Chicago’s New Angular, Permeable Park

  1. M. D. Vaden of Oregon 12/08/2010 / 8:25 pm

    This just goes to show one positive aspect about some architects … they tend to put their minds to work.

    The likely drawback for something like this, from what I’ve experienced with various kinds of building projects, is increased waste and labor.

    Angular or irregular lines generally cause excess scraps, increasing materials costs. And labor often increases a bit too.


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