Landscape At Water Tower Park, Chicago
A. Existing Conditions/Challenges
- The historical Chicago Water Tower is a well-known symbol of Chicago and its rebirth after the great fire of 1871. Located on Michigan Avenue, the urban park surrounding the Water Tower is a highly visible and heavily used focal point and hub for the Magnificent Mile shopping and entertainment district.
- Located near the John Hancock Center, Water Tower Place, and Northwest Memorial Hospital, Water Tower Park acts as a significant north-south pedestrian route and gathering place.
- Having undergone previous unsuccessful renovations and maintenance, this Chicago icon was no longer serving its functional and aesthetic purpose as a gateway and anchor to Michigan Avenue.
- Scott Byron & Co., Inc. was approached in the fall of 1999 by a public/private partnership that included the City of Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs, City of Chicago Water Dept., the Michigan Avenue Merchants Association, and private citizens to develop design and maintenance options to enhance the visual appearance, usability and security of Water Tower Park.
- With input from photographer and artist Victor Skrebneski, we developed a design program that included a formal planting design, significant hardscape and masonry improvements, enhanced lighting, fountain installation, ornamental metal work and improved pedestrian access, circulation and safety. We were also tasked with keeping the park open and accessible during construction and given a tight timeline for completion of mid-May 2000.
B. Design Process/Construction Solutions
- Using the existing masonry curb wall as a visual cue, we proposed modifying the existing hardscape to form a quadrant system that created a strong and simple geometry as a platform for plantings of Boxwood, Ivy and annual flowers.
- Careful attention was paid to matching the buff color of the historic Joliet/Lemont limestone of the Water Tower, which complemented the widened and improved pedestrian surface of buff/brown exposed aggregate concrete.
- Echoing the strength of the Water Tower, we installed a fountain on the park’s west side that included a central water jet to reinforce the tower’s verticality. The fountain was capped with custom limestone coping that also mimicked existing stone on site.
- Further geometric emphasis was added with the installation of Parisian-influenced ornamental iron fencing installed into the stone curbing. Additional light standards, to match the existing historical styles, added safety and security and completed the design program.
- Construction challenges included scheduling of masonry, electrical, irrigation and fencing subcontractors; extensive coordination with city agencies; and significant plant installation including over 400 large Boxwood, 8,000 ivy, 2,000 annuals and 12,000 tulips. A three-month construction schedule, while keeping the park open to pedestrian access, necessitated careful planning and teamwork and attention to safety.
- Despite the constraints of schedule and logistics, all was ready in time for the dedication on schedule and on budget in May 2000.