Chicago Riverwalk, USA

Chicago Riverwalk, USA

SPACES: Best Landscape Lighting Scheme – High Budget

Chicago Riverwalk

Chicago, USA

Lighting Design:
Schuler Shook, USA

Oswaldo Chaves, Chicago Department of Transportation

Ross Barney Architects, USA

Main Lighting Suppliers:
LedLinear, Bega, Hydrel, MCI Group

The Main Branch of the Chicago River has a long history that in many ways mirrors the development of Chicago itself. Once a winding marshy stream, the river first became an engineered channel to support the industrial transformation of the city. Over the last decade, the role of the river has been evolving with the Chicago Riverwalk project — an initiative to reclaim the Chicago River for the ecological, recreational and economic benefit of the city.

The design team needed to work within a tight permit-mandated 25-foot-wide build-out area to expand the pedestrian program spaces and negotiate a series of under-bridge connections between blocks. In addition, the design had to account for the river’s annual-flood dynamics of nearly seven vertical feet. This portion of the Riverwalk comprises five different, themed blocks: The Marina Plaza, The Cove, The River Theatre, The Water Plaza, and The Jetty, each with their unique look. These blocks, or “rooms,” posed several challenges to the lighting design team. The lighting design called for all fixtures to be robust, rated for submersible applications, low maintenance, low glare, and well integrated into the architecture, while easily accessible for maintenance. In addition, the city wanted to minimise the number of fixture types and reduce energy consumption, prompting fixture consistency from “room” to “room” and using high-efficacy fixtures to deliver appropriate illumination levels for safety and comfort. The design team also consistently monitored the cost to retain the stringent performance requirements of the project without sacrificing the aesthetic aspect of the design.

The lighting for the newly redesigned Riverwalk was designed to be playful, welcoming, and interactive – a drastic departure from the stark, security-style lighting of the past.

In The Cove, patterns of projected tree-branches are achieved with CMH150W/T6, weatherproof, theatrical fixtures fitted with glass gobos and pole-mounted at street level.

In the Water Plaza, the colour-changing LED fixtures highlighting the stone of the waterfall, along with the colour-changing fountain fixtures, create amusement to the visitors, especially kids.

In the Jetty, the “Fish Lights,” as the architects called the colour-changing LED lights, delineate the boundary where water meets land.

To celebrate the historic aspect of the site, the arcade piers and ornamental capitals are illuminated with in-grade fixtures housing CMH35/TC/930 lamps with a medium distribution.

Illuminated handrails were custom made to meet submersible applications, and fitted with 3000K, IP68 LED tape with a frosted lens to protect and diffuse the light source.

Bridges linking the three “rooms” were illuminated with linear LED fixtures with opal lenses, yielding 1.8 fc average at grade. To provide safety and comfort and improve facial recognition, fixtures were angled 5-degrees, to provide 1.0-1.5 vertical fc at eye level.

Linear LED fixtures used throughout the project use 5-watts per linear foot to delineate the paths, illuminate the ramps in the River Theatre, and provide safety and comfort.

Due to concerns the Landscape Architect had with heat from fixtures uplighting the trees, 12W, low-heat, LED in-grade fixtures were utilised. In addition, fixtures were meticulously integrated within the stairs, at a safe distance away from the trees to avoid damage to the root systems.

The submersible lighting and wiring solutions provided by the design team in this project, were “field tested” a few days after the opening, when the site completely flooded and the fixtures remained energised.