2017 Honor Award

Navy Pier South Dock and Polk Bros. Plaza

Category: General Design

Landscape Architect:

James Corner Field Operations


Client:  Navy Pier, Inc

Project Team:

N’Architects: Architecture for the Wave Wall, Kiosks, Pavilions and Info Tower

Gensler Architects: Interior Architecture for Wave Wall

Environmental Systems Design: MEP Engineer for Wave Wall

Primera: Civil Engineering, MEP for South Dock and Polk Plaza

Buro Happold: Structural Engineering

L’Observatoire: Lighting Design

Jeffrey Bruce and Company: Soils and Irrigation

Terry Guen Design Associates: Local Landscape Architect

Fluidity Design Consultants: Water Feature Design

Pentagram: Signage + Wayfinding

Billings Jackson Design: Industrial Design

Kimley-Horn: Traffic Engineering

Re:Vision: Sustainability Consulting

Construction Cost Systems: Cost Estimation

About the Project:

For Chicago’s historic Navy Pier, [Firm name omitted] has designed a contemporary “Pierscape” that will renew the popular destination’s experience and connection to Lake Michigan. Re-imagined as a green spine that extends from the lake back into the city, the Pier’s South Dock anchors a series of thematic rooms filled with engaging social spaces, contemporary architecture, stunning water features, atmospheric lighting, amusements, and seasonal plantings. The new South Dock and adjoining Polk Brothers Plaza make Navy Pier not only a world-class icon, but also a center of activity and culture that is reflective of an authentic, contemporary Chicago identity.

Project Location: Chicago, Illinois

Special Factors

Chicago’s Navy Pier is a well-known as a noisy, overly-commercial tourist trap where locals would never go. Navy Pier’s challenge in celebrating their 100th year was to recreate a pier that embodies authentic Chicago culture and becomes a beloved public space. In order to do this, the redesign deploys a three-part strategy of:

  • strengthening connections between the city and lake;
  • refreshing and decluttering the pier to make way for new green infrastructure; and
  • embracing Chicago, its culture and character to create a place that is reflective of the city’s

South Dock and Polk Bros. Plaza is Phase 1 of an overall master plan, and showcases a re-organized Pier with clear sight lines and amenities including:

  • Polk Brothers Plaza, which establishes strong connections between the Pier and the City. New crossings and traffic patterns assure a safer and more welcome arrival for pedestrians and cyclists visiting the Pier;
  • The Polk Brothers Fountain, a dramatic large-format 12,500-square-foot fountain with 250 programmable jets and expanded green space for community events and markets. In winter, this area transforms to a skating rink;
  • The iconic Wave Wall and Grand Stair, which serve as both a connector between South Dock and the iconic Centennial Wheel and a social gathering space;
  • A series of beautifully reflective kiosks and Lake Pavilions that consolidate operations and ticket sales; and
  • The South Dock Promenade, which ties all these various places and experiences together into one journey. The Promenade features new herringbone low-SRI paving from recycled materials, large shade trees, grass and perennial plantings, social furniture, stages, pocket parks, and overlooks.

Navy Pier Phase 1 is the first project to achieve GOLD certification under the Sustainable SITES Initiative.