‘wild mile chicago’ is a floating eco-park by SOM and urban rivers


first phase of ‘wild mile’ opens to the public

 

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) joined forces with the non-profit group Urban Rivers to build the first phase of a floating eco-park dubbed the ‘Wild Mile’ on the Chicago river. Composed of meandering wooden walkways and lush greenery, the 139 sqm green hub serves as both a regenerative urban ecosystem reintroducing wildlife to the industrialized canal and a public space promoting education, recreation, and stronger community bonds.

 

Initiated in 2016 and completed in 2021, the eco-park was officially open for use in June 2022. The next phase will see the addition of a 122-meter-long waterfront ‘with a series of floating gardens, forests with public walkways, kayak docks, and other amenities […] designed to restore the river as a public trust,’ writes SOM. 

SOM and urban rivers build a floating eco-park meandering through the chicago river

all images © Dave Burk 

 

 

restoring biodiversity, uplifting social connectivity 

 

To restore biodiversity and ecological growth within that strip of the Chicago River, the team at Urban Rivers strategically laid out a planting design simulating a riparian ecology. Jointly with a Chicago Botanic Garden specialist, the non-profit group included 60 native plants that thrive in water environments and flora that boost pollination and bird-nesting like the marsh blazing star, American water-willow, and buttonbush.

 

Additionally, Kayak tours organized by the Shedd Aquarium help visitors learn about the regenerative processes enabled by this ecological planting scheme, namely reoxygenation and bioremediation. 

SOM and urban rivers build a floating eco-park meandering through the chicago river

the first phase of the ‘Wild Mile’ eco-park opened in June 2022 

 

 

Complementing the landscape scheme is the wooden walkway built by SOM (see more here) as a zigzagging composition of aluminum frames and dock floats supporting the wooden paths made of Kebony, a chemically modified timber. Designed as a modular structure, the walkway will be replicated for the upcoming construction phase.

 

Beyond its ecological function, the ‘Wild Mile’ project has a solid social program laid out for the Chicago community. ‘Making the most of its proximity to more than 40 schools and academic institutions, the Wild Mile incorporates rich educational and community programming. These include a volunteer-led and technology-driven initiative, River Rangers, which recruits ‘citizen scientists’ to document and provide regular reports on reintroduced plants and wildlife,’ shares SOM.

 

‘Since then, the project has evolved into a collaboration with the City of Chicago, O-H Community PartnersNear North Unity ProgramOmni EcosystemsTetra Tech, and local community members providing input central to its goals, objectives, and priorities.’

SOM and urban rivers build a floating eco-park meandering through the chicago river

zigzagging wooden pathways mimicking water flow 

SOM and urban rivers build a floating eco-park meandering through the chicago riverthe eco-park offers kayak tours organized by Shedd Aquarium 

SOM and urban rivers build a floating eco-park meandering through the chicago river

top view 

 

 

 

project info:

 

name: Wild Mile

type: Floating eco-park 

location: Chicago, Illinois, USA

completion year: 2021

opening date: June 2022 

site area: 68,797 sqm 

first phase area: 139 sqm

client: City Of Chicago – Department Of Planning & Development

architecture: SOM | @skidmoreowingsmerrill

landscape scheme: Urban Rivers | @urbanriv

main collaborators: Omni Ecosystems, Near North Unity Program,TetraTech, O-H Community Partners

photography: Dave Burk | @daveburk





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