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29 Great Solutions

AEC firms are hotbeds of invention and innovation to meet client needs in today's highly competitive environment. The editors of Building Design+Construction are pleased to present 29 "Great Solutions" to some of the most complex problems and issues facing Building Teams today.

August 01, 2009 |


The Riverwalk runs along the south bank of the Chicago River, giving the Windy City a 1.3-mile-long pedestrian promenade.

1. Riverwalk Transforms Chicago's Second Waterfront

Chicago has long enjoyed a beautiful waterfront along Lake Michigan, but the Windy City's second waterfront along the Chicago River was often ignored and mostly neglected. Thanks to a $22 million rehab by local architect Carol Ross Barney and her associate John Fried, a 1.3-mile stretch of land morphed into an urban park with a 17-foot-wide promenade that meanders along the river's south bank through the heart of downtown Chicago. Parts of the Riverwalk existed prior to the overhaul, but the usable spaces existed as self-contained islands

with no relation to one another, forcing pedestrians to climb steps and cross busy streets to get from one to the other. Connecting these previously unconnected spaces and creating an uninterrupted path (gaps were built atop steel piles and concrete landfill) that can be used by people strolling, jogging, or biking along the water was critical. The improvements also brought cafés, retail, tour boat docks, extensive landscaping and hardscaping, and abundant seating. The city's new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain is also installed along the Riverwalk.
Canopies offer high style below bridges
At several points along the riverwalk, the path runs beneath bridges where passing vehicles can shower pedestrians below with dirt and debris and where the covered, shadowy space can instill a sense of trepidation in those walking underneath. The architects' solution to these problems was the installation of canopies that act as barriers between the bridges and the pathway. Bright lighting is integrated into the canopies, which are covered with stainless steel shingles that act as mirrors to reflect the water's shimmering elegance. One Chicago architecture critic blogging about the canopies wrote: "instead of under-bridge fear, you get under-bridge delight."
Built on the 75-year-old ruins of New York City’s elevated freight train tracks, the High Line is a 1.45-mile urban park that winds around buildings and above streets on the city’s West Side. The $152 million rehab is inspiring similar projects throughout the world.

2. High Line Elevates the Typical Urban Park


econstruction of the High Line turned 1.45 miles of elevated and abandoned railroad track into a public park that offers unprecedented views of New York City and the Hudson River as it winds around buildings and over streets 30 feet above the West Side (from Gansevoort St. to 34th St., between 10th & 11th Avenues). The original 13-mile High Line opened in 1934 as a way to combat numerous accidents by elevating freight train tracks above street-level traffic (10th Avenue was dubbed Death Avenue around this time), a public-private project that cost $150 million, the equivalent of $2 billion today. The newest High Line project, the first phase of which opened June 8, cost $152 million and was championed by Friends of the High Line and planned by the architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro and landscape architect James Corner Field Operations. As part of the adaptive reuse project, the High Line is being fully rehabilitated (concrete repair, repainting, and drainage improvements) and pathways, lush plantings, seating (fixed and mobile) and lighting are being added. Access points occur every two to three blocks.

The High Line, which took inspiration from the Promenade Plantée in Paris, is serving as inspiration for urban renewal projects in Chicago, Jersey City, Rotterdam, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.

The main circulation path in BeachBody’s Santa Monica, Calif., office is also a 1/4 - mile walking track, complete with rubber flooring.

3. Walking Track Fits Firm's Wellness Focus

When Wolcott Architecture¦Interiors of Culver City, Calif., was asked to design BeachBody's new Santa Monica, Calif., offices, the fitness and weight loss solutions company challenged them to create a workspace that reflected its mission to promote healthy lifestyles. One of the 55,000-sf office's standout features is a ¼-mile walking track that runs around the perimeter of the office's third floor. Workspaces were pulled away from outside

walls allowing daylight to filter throughout the space—sustainability aligned with the company's wellness goals and the office earned LEED CI Gold—and by doing so a six-foot-wide walkway was created. Architects turned it into a real walking track—down to the rubber sports flooring—that also functions as a main circulation path. Employees now have a convenient way to incorporate walking into their exercise regimen—or a way to work off a really big lunch.
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