Reverse effect: Renewing Chicago’s waterways

October 27, 2011 |


“Rather than seeking to control nature with technology, we will discover instead that in the 21st century, nature becomes technology... Can Chicago be the city that sets this new paradigm by transforming its waterways once again?”

Crisis becomes catalyst in this new book by visionary architect Jeanne Gang, which weaves together diverse content and voices to explore how the complex challenges facing Chicago’s current waterway system can generate the revolutionary rebirth of its riverfront.

The result of a yearlong collaboration between Studio Gang, NRDC, and students from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Reverse Effect was prompted by NRDC’s 2010 report calling for a barrier in the Chicago River’s South Branch to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi Watersheds and thereby prevent invasive carp from entering Lake Michigan. Investigating how dividing the river could also connect and recharge surrounding neighborhoods led Studio Gang to discover exciting new possibilities for the city they call home.

Reverse Effect is meant to become a tool that can empower a new generation of Chicagoans—from architects and designers to policymakers, advocates, and everyday citizens—to reimagine and reshape the river’s future together, as well as a road map for the nation’s broader river renaissance.

Jeanne Gang, FAIA, a 2011 MacArthur Fellow, leads Studio Gang Architects, a collective of architects, designers, and thinkers whose projects address pressing contemporary issues. Known for pursuing a future where the urban and natural worlds interweave, Jeanne’s work focuses on cities, ecologies, materials, and technologies. The work of Studio Gang has been honored and exhibited widely, most notably at the International Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is an international environmental advocacy organization that uses law, science, and the support of 1.3 million members and online activists to protect the planet’s natural resources and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things. Locally, nationally, and internationally, NRDC’s work is broad, successful, and solutions-oriented. In January 2007, NRDC brought its hard-hitting environmental advocacy to the Midwest. Under the leadership of Henry L. Henderson, NRDC’s Midwest program is advancing the region’s vision of a clean and sustainable future with a major commitment to restoring the Chicago River and protecting the Great Lakes.

Reverse Effect will be available for the first time at a November 3 celebration hosted by NRDC that will benefit their Chicago River and Great Lakes work. The evening will feature a one-time only performance by the Second City of Carpocalypse!, an original sketch about the invasive carp crisis. The book will also be available for sale and signing following a November 17 conversation between Jeanne Gang and NRDC’s Henry Henderson at the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center. Free and open to the public, the event will be moderated by WBEZ’s Steve Edwards.

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