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Archive for the ‘Urbanism’ Category

Is the Pedway the Right Way?

In Architecture, Urbanism on July 7, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Designing systems for buildings, people and vehicles to coexist in a busy downtown like Chicago is a great opportunity for innovation and creativity in design.  The above pedway crossing over South Water Street just East of Michigan Avenue in Chicago satisfies all of these requirements quite well.  The design allows vehicular traffic to pass underneath the pedway, pedestrian traffic to flow above the traffic, and the entire structure in turn serves as the base and public plaza of the Mies van der Rohe office building above.  The perspective here illustrates one of the several entrances to the pedway on the left.

The Loop has its fair share of under and above ground pedestrian pathways intended to provide shelter to users while taking full advantage of the captive audience with shops, restaurants and business dotting the way.  Interestingly, from an urban design standpoint, the pedway itself is difficult to successfully design in city centers that are not as busy as Chicago.  They essentially divert people from the street level businesses that rely on foot traffic.  Also, in today’s car-dominated society, giving further speed and prominence to vehicular traffic in city centers can make the few pedestrians on the street feel uneasy about strolling through a potentially hazardous downtown.

Despite these common pitfalls, this pedway seems to allow pedestrians, vehicles and the surrounding buildings to coexist creatively.

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Designing a Wall: Planter/Street Furniture in Prudential Plaza

In Furniture, Landscape, Urbanism on July 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm

This hybrid planter/street furniture spacial divider wraps the East and North edges of Prudential Plaza in Chicago.  The “wall” structure effectively does the following:

  • Separates the public street and sidewalk from the semi-public plaza
  • Negotiates the change in elevation from street level to the raised plaza above
  • Provides seating on both the street and raised plaza side
  • Softens the impact of the wall by incorporating planters & greenery
  • Utilizes the taller, Art Deco inspired posts between planters for lighting and vertical emphasis in an otherwise horizontal composition

Street furniture and planters are important aspects of any plaza.  They provide a welcoming environment for people to enjoy, while also defining the space.  In this case, the tiered planters lessen the stark impact of what is essentially a six- to seven-foot wall around the plaza.  By stepping the planters back and incorporating seating, the streetscape and plaza become more inviting.

This structure is another example of how thoughtful design can enhance a space, even in something as simple as a wall.

Millennium Park Monument

In Architecture, Classicisim, Millennium Park, Urbanism on July 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Today I was searching for a good place to plop down & sketch when the sound of a big / Frank Sinatra style band drew me into the Southeast corner of Millennium Park.  Millennium Park houses monuments that are traditional and classical and also has fun, modern sculptures like the Bean.  Positioned between busy Randolph street and the bluesy band lies a monument dedicated to the founders of Millennium Park, the subject of today’s post.

I’ve always had an affinity towards monuments because they are inherently standalone works of art that encapsulate an emotion ranging from celebration to reverence to remembrance.  The founder’s monument, architecturally speaking, is a limestone Roman Doric colonnade arranged in a half circle around a central fountain that also serves as seating.  The choice of Roman Doric speaks to the classical nature of other portions of Millennium Park (not to mention Chicago in general) and also has an interesting dialog with the giant Ionic columns of the former public library now Chicago Cultural Center across the street.

From an urban design standpoint, the monument serves several functions: barrier, focal point, space definition and vertical circulation.  First, as I mentioned earlier, it provides a barrier to the vehicular traffic immediately behind it.  Perhaps most importantly, the monument shapes the surrounding natural landscape into an orderly composition.   It also provides a focal point and is a great spot for tourists to snap a picture or two.  Additionally, a ramp hidden behind the monument allows access to the next terrace level of Millennium Park.

Millennium Park is a great spot for summer lunches in Chicago, and I’m sure future posts will feature other elements of the massive park.