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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

The Great Pier (Chicago Navy Pier) in Illinois by !melk landscape architecture and urban design

February 25th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: !melk landscape architecture and urban design

Great Pier of the Great Lakes

Chicago is known for its penchant to “make no little plans” as Daniel Burnham memorably pronounced over a century ago.  And so today, Chicago’s most popular attraction, Navy Pier is revisiting Burnham’s legacy as it reimagines its potential as a world class cultural destination.  To help realize Navy Pier’s ambitious design goals, a team led by !melk, UrbanLab and HOK has proposed a series of dramatic ideas to reconceptualize Chicago’s preeminent exclamation point extending from the Great Lakes to the world.


Gateway plaza aerial view

The design team is headed by !melk principal Jerry Van Eyck, a former partner of the renowned Netherlands based landscape and urban design firm West 8.  Van Eyck has realized numerous cutting-edge landscape-centered projects around the globe.  Reinvigorating cultural landmarks such as Navy Pier into dynamic places that attract worldwide attention is exactly what Van Eyck knows how to do.


Shikaakwa gardens

Team !melk’s design proposal stems from the geological history that formed the unique Chicago and Great Lakes landscape.  The melting mile-thick glaciers of the last Ice Age left not only the five Great Lakes, but also left behind smaller marks on the landscape, or landmarks throughout the region.  The swell and swale landmarks imprinted on the landscape such as drumlins, kames, moraines, eskers and kettles are spectacular forms.  Team !melk works with these unique natural phenomena to create a series of topographic waves and curls that smoothly unify the once highly fragmented Pierscape.  The new topography also creates and opens surprising movements, social spaces, vistas, observation points, places for activities, contact with nature, and art.


Shikaakwa gardens exterior splash playground

The design team strongly believes that to appreciate the magnitude of the Great Lakes people must get close to them…and then get even closer.  This closeness is at the heart of their approach.  The team has found several ways to inspire people to experience the power of the Great Lakes in multiple states.  The team’s boldest water-based design proposal is the “Glacier”.  The icon embraces water in all its states, especially in the winter when onboard waterfalls create flows of ice freezing the tower into a glacier.  It will surely become the next must-see global attraction.  A less monumental but equally compelling water-based design feature includes a “Fish Resort”.  This is a much larger version of Chicago’s existing “fish hotel”, which has been a successful attractor of both fish and people of all ages and sizes.  The team is hopeful that the Fish Resort will become an attraction equal in popularity to seal watching on Pier 39 in San Francisco (Pier 39 receives twice the number of yearly visitors than Navy Pier largely based on the presence of the seals).

Shikaakwa interior gardens of imagination and discovery

Team !melk is also making plans to strengthen Navy Pier’s connection back to the urban fabric of Chicago.  Currently, many people living in Chicago have the impression that Navy Pier is a far-off destination rather than a place to visit routinely.  The design team is recalibrating this scenario with highly interconnected new spaces and programs authentic to Chicago.  The team has redesigned Gateway Park – the primary physical connection back to the city – with a new public plaza housing several new potential programmatic and cultural venues.

Providing economic sustainability to Navy Pier is the long term goal, and these ideas will likely happen over multiple phases.  The short term goal is to attract Chicagoans by making them feel as though Navy Pier is a vital slice of a unique city.


Summer aerial view



!melk: Design Lead Landscape Architecture

    Jerry van Eyck, Principal Designer
    Manda Yakiwchuk, Team Coordinator & Project Manager
    Yadiel Rivera-Diaz, Landscape Designer

HOK: Urban Design & Planning

    Tyler Meyr, Lead Urban Designer
    Chip Crawford, Masterplanner/ Design Facilitator
    Daniel Mitchell, Urban Design Coordinator

UrbanLab: Urban Design & Architecture Strategy

    Martin Felsen, Urban Design Strategist/ Architect
    Sarah Dunn, Urban Design Strategist/ Architect


THIRST: Graphic Design

    Rick Valicenti, Communications Design Director
    John Pobojewski, Communications Senior Designer

Terry Guen Design Associates

    Terry Guen, Principal, Local Landscape Architect
    Zoe Ryan, Art Curator

CDF: Ecological Design Services

    David Yocca, Principal Landscape Architect
    Thomas Price, Watershed and Stormwater Management


HR&A Advisors, Economic Development & Public Policy

    John Alschuler, Economics Advisor
    Jamie Torres Springer, Economics Advisor

Magnussen Klemencic Associates, Structural & Civil Engineering

    Drew Ganges, Civil Managing Principal
    David Eckmann, Structural Managing Principal

Leni Schwendinger Light Projects, Lighting Design

    Leni Schwendinger, Principal Lighting Designer

Sam Schwartz, Traffic Engineering

    Sam Schwartz, Transportation Engineering Principal
    Mark De La Vergne, transportation Engineering Project Manager

KBE, Public Space Activation

    Karin Bacon, Creative Director

CMS, Water Feature Designer

    Nadine Nemec, Water Feature Design Principal

The curl promenade walkway

The edge's underwater sculpture garden

The glacier fall

The glacier night

The glacier spring

The glacier summer

The glacier winter

The great pier at night

The waves lower level

Winter aerial view

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Category: Urban Design

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