CHICAGO ARCHITECTURAL CLUB - 2020 BURNHAM PRIZE ENTRY
ENTRY TITLE: CONNECT THE DOTS
PROJECT STATEMENT: RE-PACING THE BOULEVARDS
Burnham envisioned the Boulevards as picturesque extensions of Chicago’s parks – a place of leisurely strolls, horse rides, and playgrounds. The Boulevards were not merely a path from point A to point B. Rather, they were places for residents to connect with each other and with nature.
Burnham understood that the speed by which we move through a place determines the quality of our experience of it. Therefore, in this plan, freight and high-speed traffic took place outside of the boulevards. Over time, cars replaced horses, roads became smooth, and vehicular speed increased, erasing the original intent of this public space.
Fast traffic has marooned large swaths of lawn, making it difficult to access by foot and unpleasurable to inhabit. In a city that values parkland, and recognizes that many neighborhoods could use more of it, 562 acres of “open space” awaits re-envisioning.
Autonomous ride-sharing cars will eventually reduce traffic, allowing the boulevards to be restored as open spaces for residents on foot and bike. Removing the inner vehicular lanes provides enough space for a plethora of programmatic opportunities. Permeable pavers in the outer lanes roughen the road which slows traffic, and reduces stormwater run-off.
While lawn still plays a role where it is programmatically helpful, native plant communities and prairie will be interwoven throughout the boulevards to provide food, habitat, and passage for birds, insects, and mammals.
With these changes, we reimagine, invigorate, and strengthen the green ribbons of connection, vital to Burnham’s original plan of Chicago.