Five Approaches to Reviving Chicago's Navy Pier

Five Approaches to Reviving Chicago's Navy Pier

AECOM/BIG (all images courtesy respective firms)
AECOM/BIG (all images courtesy respective firms)

Five proposals to rethink the public spaces at Navy Pier have gone on view at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The finalist teams–AECOM/BIG, Aedas/Davis Brody Bond/Martha Schwartz Partners, James Corner Field Operations, !melk/HOK/UrbanLab, and Xavier Vendrell Studio/Grimshaw Architects–use variety of approaches to revitalize the historic pier, which has long been a favored destination for tourists. Organizers hope revitalizing the pier’s public spaces will make it a world-class destination for residents as well as visitors, much like Millennium Park and the rest of the lakefront. AECOM/BIG’s proposal calls for a series of undulating ramp/bleachers that form a new landscape over much of the pier’s midsection, culminating in a new park at the tip.


The Aedas-led team calls for a zig zagging series of promenades, some that would serve as boat launches, boardwalks, or pools, extending out from the pier and connecting to the lakefront. The existing pier would receive a dramatic new lighting scheme.


The !melk-led team’s proposal also features undulating extensions of the pier with low-slung buildings below the ramps, along with a substantial increase in vegetation, including large trees. The zig zag “edge,” features a constructed wetlands. Perhaps the proposal’s most dramatic feature is a artificial “glacier,” a fountain designed to freeze in the winter into a ice column.

James Corner Field Operations

James Corner Field Operations has perhaps the most lush proposal, with grassy landscape elements, trees, play fountains, and a large floating pool at the end of the pier.

Team X

Xavier Vendrell’s plan is arguably the most modest proposal, largely building upon the existing pier, including a new winter garden. They end of the pier includes a cantilevered sloping lookout over Lake Michigan.

All the proposals are on view at the Chicago Architecture Foundation through mid May. Learn more about the designs and comment at Navy Pier Vision.