The Chicago Plan Commission broke down the last barrier for the so-called Navy Pier Flyover to move foreword. The pedestrian bridge will provide safe passage from Ogden Slip to Jane Addams Park, with a small branch splitting at Illinois Street and dropping down at Navy Pier Park. At the moment runners, bikers, and tourists must jam together and navigate cars to access the pier or continue along the lakefront trail. The project, to be completed in three phases, is expected to cost $45 million.
The city studied the problem for years and engineered a basic plan before calling in architect Muller+Muller to arrive at a more aesthetic solution. At first glance the renderings blend the bridge with the highway infrastructure of Lake Shore Drive, leaving much of the design in the detailing. “This whole scheme came long ago,” said senior design architect David Steele. “We wanted it to be fairly lightweight and not a heavy engineered viaduct, and we didn’t want it to be oppressive from below.”
Unified by a singular support tube, the bridge snakes north beside the highway before the split at Illinois. Large support piers spaced 100 feet apart hold triangular splits at their core. Brackets brace onto the tube to support the concrete deck before continuing above where they pivot in toward the path and then flare back out. There, the brackets become vertical supports for brushed steel pipes and stainless cables that form the guardrail. The lighting design pulls much of the composition together at night, with hidden LED lights washing over the entire length of the support tube and piercing inside the triangular splits of the vertical piers. Ambient light from the highway lights washes over the path, so smaller lights in the vertical supports need only flood the footpath below.
At Lake Point Tower, residents wanted to protect the deck garden from runners who might want to jump from the path to take a break. Muller+Muller quelled concerns by building perforated aluminum “petals” that canopy out over the walkway. Each square petal is about four feet wide and tilts up to a slightly different angle from its neighbor, creating a wavelike composition for cars heading north. The city had to buy air rights from Lake Point build the structure. Once the path passes the parapet, the guardrails resume their original form until Grand Avenue. There, designers added another flourish: colorful metallic cutouts of bikes festoon one side of the bridge and runners’ legs decorate the other.
The first phase is set to begin in 2012.