Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed
to echo the rhythms of rowing

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Chicago firm Studio Gang Architects has completed a boathouse on the northern bank of the Chicago River with a rhythmic roofline intended to capture the alternating motions of a rower's arm movements (+ slideshow).

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

Located beside Clark Park in the north-west of the city, the WMS Boathouse provides a home for the Chicago Rowing Foundation. It is one of four boathouses proposed as part of a city-funded regeneration of the Chicago River, and the first of two designed by Studio Gang.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

Structural roof trusses that alternate between M and upside-down V shapes give the building its jagged roof profile, which was conceptualised by tracing the time-lapse movements of rowing.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

"The architecture is meant to visually capture the poetic rhythm and motion of rowing," said Studio Gang principal Jeanne Gang, "but by providing a publicly accessible riverfront, it also reveals the larger movement toward an ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River."

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

The boathouse comprises two buildings positioned alongside one another. The first is a single-storey shed for storing rowing equipment, while the second is a two-storey structure containing offices, community facilities, a fitness suite and a rowing tank where teams can practice indoors.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

The exterior of the building is clad with a mixture of slate tiles and zinc panels, which share the same silvery grey colouring.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

Interior spaces are lined with timber, which also extends outside the building to wrap the inside of balconies and undersides of overhanging eaves.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

South-facing clerestory windows extend up to the edge of the roof, bringing high levels of natural light through the building, but also helping to warm the interior in winter and allow natural ventilation during the summer.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

Studio Gang's second boathouse will be located on the south side of the river and is set to complete in 2015.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

Read on for more information from Studio Gang Architects:


Studio Gang Architects completes WMS Boathouse at Clark Park

First of the two new boathouses along Chicago River designed and constructed by SGA state-of-the-art, 22,620-square-foot facility now open to the public

Studio Gang Architects (SGA) is pleased to announce the completion of the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park along the north branch of the Chicago River. Designed and built by SGA, the state-of-the-art facility opened to the public on October 19, 2013. It is located at 3400 North Rockwell Avenue on the northwest side of the City of Chicago.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

The Clark Park facility is one of four boathouses proposed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as cornerstones of his riverfront revitalisation plan, anchoring the river's future development. Emanuel's initiative was spurred by the provision of nearly $1 million in grant funds by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up the river and drive job creation. Studio Gang was commissioned to realise two of the four boathouses, with the second facility to be located along the south branch of the Chicago River at 28th and Eleanor Streets. It is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

The WMS Boathouse at Clark Park is currently home to the Chicago Rowing Foundation (CRF). In partnership with the Chicago Park District, the CRF offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities year-round, including learn-to-row sessions both in tanks and on the river, youth and masters team rowing, ergometer training, rowing-inspired yoga classes, and lessons tailored to individuals with disabilities.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

As the City of Chicago works to transform the long-polluted and neglected Chicago River into its next recreational frontier, Studio Gang's boathouse at Clark Park helps catalyse necessary momentum. "The architecture is meant to visually capture the poetic rhythm and motion of rowing," said Jeanne Gang, Founder and Principal of Studio Gang Architects. "But by providing a publicly accessible riverfront, it also reveals the larger movement toward an ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River."

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

The boathouse's design translates the time-lapse motion of rowing into an architectural roof form, providing visual interest while also offering spatial and environmental advantages that allow the boathouse to adapt to Chicago's distinctive seasonal changes. With structural truss shapes alternating between an inverted "V" and an "M", the roof achieves a rhythmic modulation that lets in southern light through the building's upper clerestory. The clerestory glazing warms the floor slab of the structure in winter and ventilates in summer to minimise energy use throughout the year.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

The 22,620-square-foot complex consists of a two-story mechanically heated and cooled training centre, one-story boat storage facility, and a floating launch dock. The main building houses row tanks, ergometer machines, communal space, and an office for the Chicago Park District. Boat storage accommodates kayak and canoe vendors and includes office space, as well as clear span storage for rowing shells and support equipment.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing

The total building cost is $8.8 million, with $3.2 million in private funding—including $2 million from WMS, $1 million from North Park University, and $200,000 from the Chicago Rowing Foundation—and $1 million matched by Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th ward) with TIF funds.

Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing
Isometric diagram
Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing
Ground floor plan - click for larger image
Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing
First floor plan - click for larger image
Studio Gang's Chicago boathouse designed to echo the rhythms of rowing
Long section - click for larger image
  • 1week1project

    Love it! Well done.

  • George

    There is nothing jagged about the rowing stroke, but it looks great none the less.

  • LOW

    Honestly Studio Gang never disappoints.