Gallery: West Loop Park Infuses Chicago With Green Urban Space


As the construction process for Hudson Yards drags on in New York, we’re glad to see green urban design is alive and well in Chicago. The windy city is no stranger to sustainable building, and this urban park, located on the fringe of the city’s downtown, will certainly give Chicago even more green cred. Perkins + Will, the architects behind the design, developed the park to create more open space for the city, but the greenway also proves to be a pedestrian-friendly gateway that connects the existing downtown to any future development across the Kennedy Expressway.

There is no doubt that Perkins + Will are envisioning greener infrastructure for the future of Chicago. On the surface, they have simply carved out open space for current and future residents of the city, however at closer glance, the architects’ plan for an urban park to span the Kennedy Expressway is also a method for resolving the highway barrier between the city’s downtown and the neighborhoods directly West of the downtown — neighborhoods that would otherwise be dis-connected from the city’s East side green spaces and famous waterfront.

Crossing over the Kennedy Expressway to arrive in downtown Chicago, pedestrians today encounter the loads of carbon emissions and noise that cars create as they drive down the highway. To ameliorate this problem, the architects suggested developing high-rise buildings with vertical green elements and wind scoops to facilitate air movement that would improve air quality. Plants and trees would also reduce noise level, soak up carbon and make the space attractive to strolling visitors.

The proposed promenade would be located over the Kennedy Expressway directly west of Chicago’s downtown. For the map geeks out there, you can find the interactive Google map here.

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  1. archidose September 16, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Not sure why this is getting a WAN award in 2009, since this is a project for the Invisible Cities exhibition at the Chicago Architecture Foundation in 2003. This is my feature from June of that year:

    The plan was hypothetical and used primarily as a tool to illustrate the possibilities of the city’s Central Area Plan (, part of which looked at moving office buildings westward beyond the Kennedy to make the areas near Grant Park, and now Millennium Park, more residential. So the questions that Scott asked are practical ones that weren’t addressed in the plan. Nevertheless I think it’s a great idea, and one need only look at Millennium Park — a platform above train tracks and parking garage — to see the potential in this approach. But then just think of how much over budget the park went to see how difficult a plan like Perkin + Will’s would be to implement. Maybe the plan’s resurgence now will remind people to think of the area of the Kennedy and the potential in improving it.

  2. Scott September 7, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    I would agree with cmaceachen’s anti-critique. How is snow a problem?

    I would think more importantly, what are those paths for and what are the spaces being made?

    Is there connection to existing bike paths? Is there ample room for bikes, joggers and tourists with strollers? Are those huge patches of green diagramatic for outdoor space or are they expected to be all lawns (unnesicary) and is the water supply renwable or city drinking water?

    I am sure there are additional important questions to be asked but those are ones that are most important to me.

  3. cmaceachen September 2, 2009 at 8:51 am

    @lahandiman, It’s no different than any of the hundreds (thousands?) of tunnels across the country or freeway park in Seattle. I think you overstate the problem.

  4. lahandiman September 1, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Nice educational exercise, but impractical. How do you deal with varying light /shade levels for driver visibility on the expressway? What about winter? Chicago does get snow, and maintenance of the expressway would be loads of fun with drifting snow from the “wind scoops” and alternating dry/wet/icy portions of roadway. Inject a dose of reality into the vision and there may be some potential.

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