Posts Tagged ‘Navy Pier’

Helmut Jahn Unveils His Vision for Revamping Navy Pier

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Navy PierCelebrity architect Helmut Jahn has created a vision for redeveloping Chicago’s Navy Pier, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016.  Writing in the Chicago Tribune about Jahn’s plan, architecture critic Blair Kamin says “Yes, it’s over the top and, in all likelihood, ridiculously expensive.  But it’s full of creative sparks — precisely what was missing from the largely predictable list of recommendations made by a visiting panel of developers in conjunction with the news about the pier’s revamp.  Think of it as a conversation starter, one that kick starts the civic debate over Chicago’s first signature public work of the post-Daley era.  So what if the twisting, 2,000-foot Chicago Spire is dead?  Now, Chicago can channel every ounce of its civic energy into rebuilding and re-conceiving the ramrod straight, 3,300-foot-long pier.”

Jahn’s proposal includes the following:

  • Build a two-story retail addition to the south of the pier’s existing corridors. This would follow the canopy’s curve and be topped by a lengthy skylight.
  • Expand the Dock Street pedestrian walkway to the south and add small angled piers for pleasure boats.
  • Build a 500-foot-tall Ferris wheel and orient it to the east and west.
  • Expand the park at the west end to include a 1,300 lower-level garage and build ramps to accommodate CTA buses.

“Even if his plan is a relic from the Age of Excess that’s seeing the light of day in the Age of Austerity, it sets the architectural agenda, raising design issues that other architects who vie for this plum job will invariably have to address,” Kamin said.  “A big design competition might yield fascinating ideas, yet it also might prove time-consuming and unwieldy.  If, as expected, pier officials issue a request for proposals, it will be essential that they look not only for a powerful design but also an architect who can meld the practical and the visionary.  Jahn’s heroic, imperfect plan is but a first step down that road.”

“Less Is More” the Right Direction for Navy Pier Renovation

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Noted Chicago architect Ludwig Mies Navy Pier revamp needs some architectural originality.  van der Rohe’s famous maxim “Less is more” should apply to ambitious plans for revamping Chicago’s Navy Pier, the city’s top tourist destination.  Writing in the Chicago Tribune, architectural critic Blair Kamin says “The good news about the latest vision for the pier is that it discards the excesses of a 2006 plan that would have layered a roller coaster and an indoor water park onto an attraction that already resembles a shopping mall or a carnival midway.  But it is one thing to ditch a bad plan and another thing to find the creative spark necessary to bring order and élan to Navy Pier’s architectural mishmash.”

A bold design framework is needed for the 3,300-foot-long pier, which was a vision of Daniel Burnham and was completed in 1916.  The Urban Land Institute has issued a 40-page report with recommendations  that address the ways in which the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority could enhance the Pier, which has seen a fall in attendance to 8,000,000 annually from a high of 9,000,000 in 2000.  According to Kamin, “The report’s principal recommendations lack flashes of insight about the great public work, which originally consisted of classically inspired buildings framing freight and passenger sheds.  The sheds disappeared as part of the pier’s $225 million makeover, completed in 1995.  Still, the Urban Land Institute is offering a few promising ideas that could refresh the pier’s identity as a public pleasure ground and replace its once-graceful appearance.”

Among the recommendations are replacing the white fabric-roofed Skyline Stage with a 950-seat venue that would expand the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  This has the potential to restore the pier’s clean-lined silhouette.  Another is to replace the current Ferris wheel with a larger one similar to the London Eye.   Some of the elevated pier’s edges might be redesigned, giving visitors access to Lake Michigan.

“But as the report itself acknowledges, the next step is for architects to translate these vague notions into a reality that is both user friendly and visually striking,” Kamin says.  “Fortunately, pier officials say they will consider asking Chicago’s architects to submit redesign proposals based on the report.  And well they should, given that the city has a mother lode of design talent that’s been sidelined by the construction downturn.  It’s time to use that talent – and to use this fresh opportunity to make Navy Pier the great public space it ought to be.”