Design teams present new ideas for Navy Pier

January 31, 2012 4:43:24 PM PST
Five teams of designers from Chicago and around the world began presenting their plans Tuesday night for a makeover of Chicago's Navy Pier.

At around 6 p.m., the first three teams were presenting their plans at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The other two teams are set to present on Wednesday.

Legendary Chicago architect Daniel Burnham was famously quoted as saying to "make no little plans." The competing designs live up to that ambitious spirit.

Boasting springlike weather, Tuesday was a great day for a stroll along the pier, and we showed visitors what that experience could be like in the future.

"I think it's beautiful," said visitor Andy Mills. "One of the examples showed you that people could get actually closer down to the water, and I think that would be really nice."

The design ideas from the five competing teams... Include zigzagging boardwalks that jut out from the pier, dramatic staircases that sweep around the Ferris wheel, more seating to relax and take in the sights, and even gondola rides to ferry visitors back and forth.

"You've got some teams that are interested in changing the way the Ferris wheel looks. You've got some teams that took a unique look at the outside portions of the pier. You've got some teams that went into the water and have some ideas for the water," said Navy Pier spokesperson Nick Shields.

The changes are slated for completion by 2016 and would affect only the outside areas.

"We are just talking specifically about the outside spaces, such as gateway park, crystal gardens, the south dock that dots the outside area of the pool," said Navy Pier spokesperson Nick Shields.

Designer Yadiel Rivera is part of the team from !melk, which is presenting a plan that includes curved platforms, areas where fish would congregate, and a towering structure called the glacier, which would rise out of the lake.

"It will energize this place," said Rivera. "It needs more energy, and I think that the city needs it, and hopefully it will bring locals, tourists."

It has been more than a decade since the last redesign and in recent years attendance at navy pier has been flat or slightly down.

No public dollars will be used for the makeover. Navy pier officials initially budgeted $85 million, though that figure is likely to rise.

"We're going to seek grants. We're going to seek donations. It's going to be a lot of ways in which we're going to fund this project," said Shields.

The process began with 52 design teams and is down to five. The presentation process is open to the public. Officials hope to have a winner chosen by late February or early March.