A walking tour of Chicago’s historic Navy Pier will take place Tuesday, July 19, led by engineers with intimate knowledge of the pier’s various structures who worked on phases of its redevelopment. Thornton Tomasetti’s Bill Bast, Ken Maschke, Eric Wheeler and Alberto Mena provided structural design for current and recently completed work at the pier, including the installation of the new Centennial Wheel attraction. Sponsored by AIA Chicago, Thornton Tomasetti and SEAOI, the free tour will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but registration is required. Continuing education credits may be earned.
Points of Interest
1. Navy Pier History
Designed by architect Charles Sumner Frost, Navy Pier opened to the public in 1916 as “Municipal Pier.” This year, it celebrates its 100-year anniversary. The only pier built as part of Daniel Burnham’s 1909 “Master Plan of Chicago,” it has served various purposes leading up to its 1995 redesign, including as a local attraction with theaters, a training center for the Navy during World War II, and as a University of Illinois at Chicago campus. In 1995, approximately 1.5 million square feet were redeveloped at the pier and new areas were created, including the Family Pavilion, Pier Park, the Skyline Stage, the Shakespeare Building and Festival Hall. For this endeavor, new foundations and structural systems were erected.
2. Family Pavilion And Chicago Children’s Museum (With Gensler)
The Family Pavilion, located on the western end of Navy Pier and adjacent to its original Head House, serves as an entry hall and connection point to the pier. The structural system in this area is a cast-in-place concrete framing on Level 1, with structural steel framing above. The roof of the structure is composed of a lightweight steel space frame, allowing for column-free spaces in the main lobby and three other spaces: the IMAX theater, the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Crystal Garden. A redesign of this important space, led by Gensler, will begin in late 2016. This phase will add a new feature stair, updated finishes, new kiosks and an extension of Level 2 to accommodate new exhibits at the Chicago Children’s Museum.
3. South Dock Pierscape And Wave Wall (By James Corner Field Operations & Buro Happold)
The South Dock was not a part of the pier’s original construction. Navy Pier was widened in the early 1960s to accommodate new trolley lines. The work was performed in two phases, and the type of construction varies for each phase. The first phase used steel pile piles; the latter used precast piles, innovative for the time. The deck was designed to support Cooper E60 railcars and 600 pounds per square foot. As part of the new Pierscape redevelopment, James Corner Field Operation and structural engineer Buro Happold designed 17’-6” square, 5’-0” deep tree pits. The redevelopment also includes ample new seating, new kiosks for pier vendors and a new lighting and audio system along the length of the pier.
4. South Arcade (With Gensler)
The South Arcade is the main interior thoroughfare by which visitors access the eastern portions of Navy Pier. The recently completed renovation, designed by Gensler, provides a Chicago-themed food experience with a more casual character than the previous iteration developed in the early 1990s. The renovation required leveling the existing surface and accommodating new below-deck services for the retail. This work was complicated by the various existing structures built up throughout the pier’s history. Precast planks from the 1990s span over the historic 1916 pier cap and bear on the south dock expansion, completed circa 1959. The roof is likewise composed of framing from both the 90s and the brand new Pierscape redevelopment.
5. Centennial Wheel (With McHugh Construction & Vekoma/Dutch Wheel)
Pier Park, the home of the new Centennial Wheel, was built during the major reconstruction of the early 1990s and was designed to support a variety of amusement rides, including the original 45-meter-tall Ferris wheel. In 2014, the pier decided to replace the existing wheel with a larger 60-meter model with modern amenities including enclosed gondolas with individual heating/cooling. Supporting the new wheel was an engineering feat: while most wheels are built on solid ground, the Centennial Wheel is on the roof of a precast concrete parking garage and on a marine pier. We collaborated with our partners at James Corner Field Operations, McHugh Construction and Vekoma/Dutch Wheels on the design and erection of the wheel’s new structural support systems and the landscaping redesign around the wheel. Centennial Wheel was unveiled to the public in May 2016 only eight months after closing and with just two days of the entire pier shut down for construction.
6. The Yard At Chicago Shakespeare (With Charcoalblue & Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture)
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater company was looking to expand into an additional venue to provide ultimate flexibility in theatrical productions at its home at Navy Pier. Working with theater designer Charcoalblue and architect Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Thornton Tomasetti designed a configurable 850-seat black box theater within the pier’s existing Skyline Stage tent structure. The key challenges were accommodating the new theater box within the existing tent while providing a flat floor in order to house various three-story-tall modular seating towers in a number of different configurations. This was done by performing a 3D scan of the existing structure, on-site testing and using existing drawings from the pier’s 1995 reconstruction effort. Slated to open in 2017, the two theater spaces will be linked with a new two-story lobby overlooking Chicago’s skyline.
7. Navy Pier Hotel (With KOO)
The east end of Navy Pier is a unique place, unlike any other in Chicago. The Centennial Vision capitalizes on this asset by locating a boutique hotel at this location, adjacent to and incorporating the historic Terminal Building. The proposed hotel, developed by First Hospitality Group, will include more than 200 guest suites, a restaurant and a rooftop venue within a total building area of approximately 290,000 square feet. The current design scheme, developed in collaboration with architect KOO, will include five-story additions above the existing two-story structures fronting all three sections of Festival Hall. The project is currently in design, with construction slated to begin in 2017.
8. East End Overlook And Ballroom (With James Corner Field Operations)
Located approximately 3,300 feet offshore, the East End of Navy Pier has long been a congregating spot for Chicago’s residents and tourists. When it opened, the east end featured a 1,400-seat ballroom and a plaza with incredible lake views. The complex was renovated in the 70s and 90s, but the historic structures largely remain. A preservation program, including a continuous cofferdam and pumps to maintain water level, has been instituted to prevent deterioration of the wood pile foundations due to lower lake levels. James Corner Field Operations is planning further development of the east end to provide visitors with an even more intimate experience with Lake Michigan.
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