Wolf Point, the plot of land at the confluence of the Chicago River's north and south branches, is one of the most high-profile development sites in Chicago - everyone seems to have an opinion of what should be built there. A group of students at the Illinois Institute of Technology have developed their own plan for the site with Clean Tower, a slanted supertall building that would return filtered wastewater to the river. The design from from IIT’s “Hi-Rise, Lo-Carb” studio is currently on display at the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Unseen City: Designs for a Future Chicago exhibit.
The Chicago River served as a dumping ground and an open-air sewer for much of the city’s history, and until recently, most downtown developments turned their backs to the river. The Clean Tower concept seeks to create a new relationship with the river by purifying water and creating water habitats. A “living machine” artificial wetland would be used to filter and purify the building’s wastewater, which would have the ability to clean more than 1 million gallons of river water per year, according to the team.
Some of the water that would be cleaned by the living machines would be used to fill large pools, which would be located between the building’s two wings, every eight floors. Private residences would also feature personal river wetland gardens.
Creating a leaning tower enables a developer to push the tower to the back of the property without sacrificing views. Under the Hi-Rise, Lo-Carb studio’s plan, the site would contain a large public plaza on the front of the property, extending from the banks of the river around the new building. A retail boardwalk and more wetlands would be located in the plaza, and it would also contain a large pool in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.
This plan is of course conceptual; the actual plan for Wolf Point is a $1 billion proposal that calls for three large (but not supertall) high-rises designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and Chicago firm Chicago firm bKL Architecture. So far, reactions to the proposal have been mixed. “The problems range from a traffic study that appears overly friendly to the developers who paid for it to building designs that are, at present, underdetailed and uninspired,” Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin recently observed.