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John Ronan Architects reveals circular new headquarters for Chicago Park District

Doing the Rounds

John Ronan Architects reveals circular new headquarters for Chicago Park District

Chicago’s John Ronan Architects (JRA) has revealed its distinctive design for what will be the new home of the Chicago Park District (CDP).

The two-story circular building—an “iconic shape befitting an important civic institution” wrote JRA in a press release—will not only serve as administrative headquarters for the CDP but also include a fieldhouse, a somewhat Chicago-specific building type that anchors many city parks. Fieldhouses—there are more than 240 spread across Chicago, many of them historic—are essentially community hubs that offer recreational and cultural programming and often include public gyms, auditoriums, and for-rent event spaces ideal neighborhood gatherings. JRA’s CDP headquarters/fieldhouse will be situated in Park 596, a new 17-acre public transit-adjacent green space planned for the Brighton Park neighborhood on Chicago’s southwest side.

JRA is overseeing both the design of the park (in collaboration with landscape architecture and urban design firm site design group) and the new building, as the firm explained, will be set into the park as a park-organizing centerpiece in lieu of on its periphery. This is intended to lend the building a “dignified presence” much like the city’s sizable stock of historic fieldhouses.

A park path will lead straight to—and through—the circular building, marking the division between the CDP offices and the fieldhouse, which will include a large gymnasium, group fitness area, function room, locker facilities, and teen area. The path will be flanked by two interior courtyards, which will, per JRA, “bring light and air into the center of the building and create outdoor meeting, recreation and relaxation space for headquarters and field house staff.” Office space will be organized by alternating segments of enclosed meeting rooms and offices and open collaborative workspaces.

a floor plan illustration for a park building in chicago
A park pathway will bisect the planned building, separating the field house from the CPD offices. (Courtesy John Ronan Architects)

As for the park itself, it will include both grass and artificial turf playing fields to the west of the structure; a “more naturalistic landscape treatment informed by the Park District’s sustainability vision” will extend to the east of the new building and provide its foreground according to JRA. There will also be a playground with a spray pool.

Construction is slated to kick off in early 2021.