The first part of the future eco-park on the river has opened in Chicago – instead of the backyards of the industrial area, the Wild Mile natural corner will appear here, designed by SOM and Urban River
August 16, 2022
The industrial districts of Chicago have been in decline for several years, and local authorities decided to rectify the situation by breathing life into the neighborhoods near the former factories. One of the main city projects is the Wild Mile eco-park, which is being built right on the water. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), together with Urban Rivers, launched the first part of the park with an area of 139 m2 – a walking block of wooden paths, flower beds and plantings. The floating park helps restore the local ecosystem, brings nature back to the industrialized area, and serves as a public space where you can relax and walk along the waterfront. “/>
The next stage will be a 122-meter waterfront “with a series of floating gardens, forests with walkways, kayak docks and other amenities […] to restore the river as a public domain ”, say the SOM architects.
To restore biodiversity to this section of the Chicago River, the Urban Rivers team designed a planting system that mimics coastal flora. Together with a specialist from the Chicago Botanic Gardens, they included 60 native plants that thrive in the aquatic environment, as well as varieties intended for pollination of flowers and nesting birds (including liatris spiked and American water willow).
A pontoon walkway complements the landscape scheme, designing SOM as a zigzag composition of aluminum frames and dock platforms with wooden decking.
In addition to the eco-function, the design of the park involves a social program: the River Rangers initiative to document and provide regular reports on plants and wildlife growing along the banks of the river.