Dezeen Magazine

Drone footage captures bustling Chicago Riverwalk one year after completion

This drone footage shows the promenade along Chicago's riverfront, a year after its transformation by firms Sasaki and Ross Barney Architects into a public space with fishing platforms and kayaking spots.

The Chicago Riverwalk project involved the regeneration of the waterfront, turning a section along the south bank in the city's downtown area into a pedestrian walkway.

Boston-based Sasaki and local firm Ross Barney Architects designed the segment that spans from State to Lake streets. After its completion in 2016,  Sasaki tasked videographer Chang Kim to shoot the site from above, as a way to best capture it in its full use by the public.

Kim's footage was shot over two days in "perfect weather" and released in November 2017. It pairs imagery taken by a drone-mounted, high-definition camera – to provide a wide overview of the site – with ground-level shots captured using a tripod to show the public enjoying the space.

"We knew we wanted to do something special to celebrate the completion of this transformative project — something that would capture the experience of this vibrant public space that's nestled in the heart of one of America's most important architectural cities," Sasaki told Dezeen.

"We've photographed the project several times now, but static photography doesn't place the viewer in the space quite like moving images can," the firm continued. "We couldn't be happier with how well this video tells the story of this project."

An early shot – which lasts three minutes – pans over five bridges that span the river at right angles to the boardwalk. Sasaki and Ross Barney Architects used these existing crossings to segment the walkway into block-sized "rooms" for different uses.

Although fundamental to the project, the bridges posed the biggest challenge during filming.

"The only difficulty we had was trying to avoid drone interference, most frequently caused by large metal structures... such as the bridges that run perpendicular to the Riverwalk at every block," said Sasaki.

"Additionally, drone regulations forbid drone flights over bridges so while we would have loved to do a single aerial pan of the whole project, safety requirements limited our ability to do so."

The team split up the design of the different spaces between the bridges, in collaboration with engineering company Alfred Benesch Engineers and landscape architecture studio Jacobs/Ryan Associates.

Sasaki designed a jetty that features protruding platforms, providing decks for fishing, with greenery placed in between. For an area named the Cove, the firm slightly angled the deck to wrap around a series of benches and face the kayak rental place, while the linear Marina section is lined with trees.

Ross Barney Architects oversaw the River Theatre, complete with auditorium-style seating that leads to the water's edge, and added a series of fountains along the Water Plaza.

The Chicago Riverwalk recently received two prizes in the 2018 American Institute of Architects' Honor Awards.

Completed in two phases, it marks the end of the extension and renovation of the city's riverwalk, which has been in the works since 1990s to provide the public with a great connection to the water. Ross Barney Architects also completed the project's first stage – the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza – in 2009.

Photography is by Christian Phillips.