Elaine Zmuda

project list

Meanders

January - April 2018

The Friends of the Chicago River currently houses their public outreach from a single bridge house along the river.  With such a grand and diverse mission, they need a better space to match their goals.  This new building, at the end of the current Chicago Riverwalk and sited in the historic heart of the city, provides both the space they need and embodies the aims of the organization.  It promotes the health of the river it sits in, houses spaces for recreation, and creates a new way of enjoying the river for both human and animal citizens.

The building is designed by pulling urban systems that run through the site and expressing them.  Namely, there is the river, the people, and native species, all requiring different things to exist.  The building hybridizes to meet these all efficiently and elegantly. The loops in these systems play with how they are traditionally used and creates opportunities for new interactions between them and “new ways of enjoying the water”.

The different urban systems each interact with multiple building systems. Water runs through the building to be cleaned (benefiting the river system), control the environment through heating and cooling, and provide recreation (benefiting people). The heating and cooling system then doubles to create the rooms by meandering in and out, along with the glass tube envelope.

The building is also positioned to be a repeatable architecture that spreads across the river system, creating a larger system, cleaning the river from multiple locations.  This larger network will solidify a new river culture in the city.