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James Corner Field Operations’ Team Wins Chicago’s Navy Pier Redesign Competition

Anymore when a large urban landscape project is in the works, you could fairly safely guess that New York’s High Line co-designers, James Corner Field Operations, would either be on the short list or had just won (it’s even been speculated that all the High Line enthusiasm could be the next “Bilbao effect”). And so it has happened again, right here in Chicago. Back in September you might recall, the organization behind the city’s Navy Pier, which juts out into Lake Michigan and offers spectacular views of the skyline and therefore should be an inviting experience but is, instead, a soul crushing tourist trap, announced plans for a major, let’s-actually-make-this-place-inviting redesign competition. The original list included teams upon teams of industry heavies, which was then whittled down, somewhat surprisingly, to some less household name teams. In the end, this week it was revealed that James Corner’s group, which also includes Bruce Mau Design, nArchitects, and Ed Marszewski, along with twelve other firms, has won the project. We were initially very excited, but then reason prevailed in the form of the Tribune‘s Blair Kamin, who writes that the project provides both “great promise — and peril” given that “pier officials’ historic tendency to favor pragmatics over aesthetics” which “could undercut a thoughtful conceptual plan.” If you’ve been to Navy Pier at any point, you’ll likely come to that worry as well. And with a relatively small budget as well, we’ll hope for the best, but we’ll do so with fingers tightly crossed. Here’s Corner and Co.’s lengthy presentation video from back in February, and here’s the quicker, animated plans:

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