Third Nature - Perkins + Will
Multiple interventions along the river
Third Nature seeks to redefine the future of the Chicago River by oscillating between First and Second Nature—terms first defined by William Cronon in his groundbreaking book Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. Third Nature improves the river experience by creating an interconnection between social, economic, and environmental values.
Seven essential elements (listed below) help achieve Third Nature. Connecting across the river (both literally and phenomenally) fosters a rich experience. Taken together, these elements posit that the future of the Chicago Riverwalk is a dynamic, operative strategy that can enrich the human experience, support social equity, and re-animate the river.
Acknowledgements: Managing Director, Gina Berndt; Principal, Ralph Johnson; Principal, Todd Snapp; Associate Principal, Julie Michiels; Associate, Andrew Broderick; Staff Designer, Nic Hnatschenko; Staff Designer, Axel Olson; Staff Designer, Sierra Heckman; Staff Designer, Jonny Rohrbaugh; Staff Designer, Zoe Storch; Staff Designer, Neil Reindel; Marketing Coordinator, Kyler Queen
Urban Thread - Built in the early 1960’s, the Congress Avenue Interchange along with the Interstate Highway system dramatically changed Chicago, marking a shift from a rail-centric city to the automobile era. The highway, off-ramps, and bridge create barriers that divide neighborhoods.
The Urban Thread prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle circulation by stitching together various levels of infrastructure, green space, and activity spots. It provides for a continuous riverwalk. The weaving path curves vertically and horizontally to bring pedestrian access to multiple levels, unifying existing and future green spaces, and providing direct access to the river. Programmed spaces include kayak launches, fishing areas, dog park, art sculpture plaza, river theater, reflecting pond/ice rink, and cafes.
River Beach - The River Beach reveals a prehistoric sand bar and creates the first swimmable beach on the Chicago River in modern history. A key element of this concept is water filtration. The surrounding natural wetland cleans river water that is pumped into the system when the sliding pedestrian bridge rotates.
As the water conveys through the wetland filtration system it becomes clean, clear, and flows into the swimming hole. At the bottom of the wetlands, clean water drains from the swimming hole back into the Chicago River. On a regular interval, bridge movement maintains water circulation through the system and enables a navigable waterway. During storm events, the wetland system can be drained to increase storm water storage capacity and mitigate negative impact to Chicago’s combined sewer.
The rotating bridge connects to a new trail on the west side of the river. The St. Charles Air Line Bridge upright is fitted with a timber skeleton and observation deck that allows visitors to take in views of the city and surrounding neighborhoods.