Greenacre Park is a "vest-pocket" park—a style of urban open space popularized in the 1970s in response to the high cost of city center land, high intensity of use, and the need to secure the park after hours. Sasaki provided architecture and landscape architecture for the park, which measures 60 feet by 120 feet and features multi-level sitting areas integrated with plantings and water displays.
A water sculpture outside the park serves as an invitation to enter. A trellis articulates the entry to the park and leads to the central sitting area, which is slightly elevated above the sidewalk. The main sitting area accommodates informal groupings of tables and chairs. Ample seating walls and broad steps provide additional places to sit during peak times such as lunch hour and a small snack bar serves food and coffee throughout the day.
Honey locust trees allow sunlight to penetrate into the area and, at the same time, create a protective canopy to screen out adjacent buildings. The entire length of one wall is a relief sculpture. Water trickles over its surface into a runnel which leads, in turn, to a main fountain at the end of the park. Water cascades over the granite face, producing a strong visual focus as well as a sound-screen against traffic noise outside.
The lower-level sitting area at the base of the water display provides visitors a more immediate sense of contact with the water. Along the adjacent wall, a raised terrace allows an overview of the whole park and an elevated view of the water display. This terrace is roofed with a trellis and acrylic domes, and is equipped with lighting and radiant heating for evening and cold weather use.
The landscape materials provide a soft contrast to the granite, brick, and steel. Evergreens—rhododendron, azalea, Japanese holly, and andromeda— are planted amid a pachysandra ground cover. A star magnolia, azaleas, and rhododendron provide early spring blossoms. Seasonal flowers fill urns which are placed informally about the park, and Boston ivy on the brick walls turns a brilliant red color in early fall.
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...