The committee presiding over Chicago's Navy Pier has unanimously selected a team headlined by James Corner Field Operations -- the landscape architecture firm that designed New York City's High Line -- to redesign the iconic Chicago tourist attraction. Corner's plan for Navy Pier calls for developing a raised park around the existing Ferris wheel, installing hanging gardens inside the Crystal Gardens pavilion, and adding a swimming pool with a sandy beach on the southern side of the pier.
In addition to the large swimming pool, which will be converted into an ice skating rink in the winter, Corner’s plan calls for constructing a dramatic seating area on the east end of the pier overlooking Lake Michigan, and for building “a surreal and overscale series of birdhouses and nesting sites.” The winning bid was one of 52 entrants in the high-profile design competition, and it beat out four other finalists that included AECOM/BIG, Aedas Architects, and others. Navy Pier officials have stated their wishes to have many of the changes completed in time for the pier’s centennial in 2016.
Corner’s plan for revamping Navy Pier is somewhat understated compared to the proposals presented by some of the other finalists, which included criss-crossing boardwalks, an enormous glacier, sledding hills, and vertical vegetable gardens. Budgetary constraints likely figured into the decision to select the Corner team, which promised that its proposal could be completed for less than the $85 million budget. “They dreamed big, but they were able to do it in a way we could pay for it,” Sarah Garvey, chairwoman of Navy Pier, Inc., told the Chicago Tribune.