Design a New Navy Pier in Chicago


In an effort to draw in more people year-round, Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and Navy Pier, Inc. announced the launch of a new $155 million redevelopment framework and design competition aimed at creating “more aesthetically appealing public spaces” on Chicago’s Navy Pier, which already attracts more than nine million visitors a year. The idea is to create new spaces that are “authentically Chicago” but steer that part of the city away from becoming a permanent theme park, which is a bit how it feels now. Landscape architects, architects, and urban designers are invited to submit their visions for reinventing Chicago’s “pierscape.”

Under the new framework, existing piers will make room for new cultural institutions — the Chicago’s Childrens Museum and Chicago Shakespeare Theater — and a new boutique hotel at the Pier’s east end, along with additional retail and dining. Sarah Nava Garvey, newly elected by the NPI Board to serve as its first Chair, said: “The Centennial Vision reflects our belief that we can create a popular attraction that is also a high-quality attraction, such as Millennium Park.” Navy Pier General Manager Marilynn Gardner added that “inviting and intriguing public spaces are essential to Navy Pier’s future success.”


The competition’s scope is massive: Public spaces up for a revamp include Gateway Park, Crystal Garden, Pier Park, the South Dock and East End Park, in addition to smaller areas tucked along the length of the pier. According to the organizations, “recreating the ‘Pierscape’ would include changes to the landscape and streetscape, introduction of public art and water features, and relighting the Pier’s exterior. Special emphasis will be put on environmentally sustainable solutions in reprogramming and redesigning public spaces.”


The framework aims to create a “more cohesive visitor experience, and improved traffic flow and vehicle-pedestrian interface at the entrance to the Pier.” In addition to improved access, designers must also focus on the addition of public art, lighting, signage, graphics, street furniture, and other street design elements in their proposals. It sounds like the city is looking for more park and less theme park. 

Much of the new vision is informed by a report developed by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) critiquing the pier and offering ways to improve it. Already, public input into the vision is being collected in an effort to further refine the plan before designers start creating options.

In the first round, teams will submit expressions of interest of October 16. Then 10 teams will be asked to submit more detailed presentations. Following this stage, five finalists will be given $50,000 to create design proposals. A winner will be selected in February 2012. 

Learn more about how to submit a proposal. For those in Chicago, submit comments about the redevelopment vision.

Image credit: Navy Pier Inc.

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