The widely anticipated opening of the Chicago Riverwalk is approaching as construction concludes on the last three rooms of the riverside promenade. Designed by Sasaki, Ross Barney Architects, Alfred Benesch Engineers, Jacobs/Ryan Associates and a broader technical consultant team, the Riverwalk, upon completion, will reclaim over a mile of linear space along the Chicago River as a public pedestrian and bike path. Its forthcoming opening represents a culmination of four years of efforts and cements its status as a landmark for downtown Chicago.
Since its conception, the Riverwalk has captured critical acclaim and the public's delight. Most recently, Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune's architecture critic, who has written favorably of the project in the past, praised the Riverwalk as "effortlessly successful." His article highlights the work of Sasaki's Gina Ford, ASLA, as design principal of the project, and underscores the Riverwalk's transformative impact as a public amenity in downtown Chicago. "The path will stretch uninterrupted for 1 and ¼ miles and will have transformed harsh industrial-era docks into a teeming postindustrial amenity," he writes.
Focusing on the Riverwalk's interactive amenities and programming in each of its six block-long sections, such as playful fountains at the Water Plaza and fishing at the Jetty, Kamin notes that the Riverwalk brought "much-needed greenery to a harsh urban edge." The Riverwalk was also listed alongside high-profile architectural and urban projects such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture in a Chicago Tribune preview of soon-to-open projects, curated by Kamin.
The New York Times touted the Riverwalk as a "viscerally satisfying new project" in a selection of emerging arts and culture architecture. Comparing the Chicago Riverwalk to the Highline, Manhattan's pre-eminent postindustrial public space, the article notes, "Experiencing Chicago from this vantage point packs the same perspective punch as viewing Manhattan from the High Line, revealing the city in new and invigorating ways: We see collections of tall buildings, the streets between them, and people, all presented episodically and in high relief. We are in a living museum—one with no roof and no limits."
The Main Branch of the Chicago River has a long and storied history that in many ways mirrors the development of Chicago itself. Once a meandering marshy stream, the river first became an engineered...