Studio Gang at the Zoo

Chicagoans have a new outdoor space to enjoy, thanks to Studio Gang Architects’ re-design of Lincoln Park Zoo’s South Pond.

The project, called Nature Boardwalk, required the group to transform the man-made pond, fed by city drinking water, into an urban oasis capable of sustaining wild plant and animal life. To accomplish this, the pond was deepened, and its concrete edge was removed in order to oxygenate the water and enable replenishment from watershed. Plant shelves were then added to filter run-off and create animal-habitat zones around the pond. 

In addition to these improvements, a new boardwalk built around the pond meanders through different educational zones ,offering information on the various plants, animals, and habitats in the new eco-system. The boardwalk connects to several paths, which lead to both the city and lakefront so that bikers, runners, and everyday explorers easily can enjoy the city’s newest green space and view the Boardwalk’s focal point, the People Gas Education Pavilion.

The pavilion, with its ribbon-like framework and bubble-wrapped exterior, almost feels more like a sculptural work than an educational space. Its simple structure made of formed wood and prefabricated pods creates a pattern that becomes more exciting after viewing it from various vantage points on the boardwalk. The elongated arch, inspired by a tortoise shell, will be used as open-air classrooms while providing a unique gateway through which to view the city.

Since opening in June, Nature Boardwalk has already become home to several species of plants, animals, and insects while attracting new visitors every day. Studio Gang Architects has once again, created another work that will inspire the city of Chicago for years to come.

–Brittany Hahn, Contract magazine guest student blogger

(Contract magazine is proud to announce a blog installation from one of three guest design student bloggers. Lisa Backus, Brittany Hahn, and La Keisha Leek regularly will be writing and sharing their design experiences at TalkContract for the next year. Check back often to see what's the buzz among the next generation of designers, and be sure to share with them your feedback and design advice by commenting below.)

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