River Ballet

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Urban Sublime

Many have likened the civic reaches of the Chicago River to an urban canyon, particularly in places (like Site #1) where the city’s impressive skyline meets sharply with the placid plane of the river’s surface. This constrained cliff-like condition requires a careful structural negotiation—where the new path must thread carefully between existing architecture and a bustling water sheet—but also offers a uniquely precarious context.

Taking advantage of these conditions, our River Ballet is a series of calligraphic paths that provide unique choices to visitors—high/low, steep/shallow, above/below, inside/outside—for the widest array of experiences. At the same time, the spaces between, above, and below the River Ballet are charged with daring engagement opportunities—places of spectacle, enhanced nature, suspended risk and unexpected sparkle.

Before & after

Drag the slider left and right to see how this site looks now compared to if this idea were built.

‍Provocative Performance. Visitors to the River Ballet  nd eye-opening and dramatic spectacle in every direction. Look towards the Opera House, and you might see the subtle magic of re ected sunlight or the drama of dancers descending down the wall. Looking up, a rich and diverse palette of species might delight your senses. Facing the river, the everyday spectacle of passers-by becomes captivating. Looking down through precarious netting, you might catch glimpses of water, wetland, and more visitors.
‍Diving Below the Surface. Typically the surface of the Chicago River is opaque—a frontier we cannot penetrate either visually or physically. The River Ballet dives below the plane of water, taking visitors on a journey that offers new perspectives and revealing mysteries of the deep.
A Precarious Perch. Netting stitched between the River Ballet’s sinuous paths offers endless opportunities to engage—whether sitting and relaxing or jumping and climbing. Holes in the netting reveal dramatic and unsettling drops to the water surface below, and looking up engages the senses in surprising displays of light and sound.
A Glimpse of the Unexpected. The experience of the Riverwalk extends beyond the paths themselves. Habitat Hives bring a jaw-dropping and marvelous density of nature to the city, visible to passers-by and Opera attendees.

All ideas for Civic Opera Edge

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