The Office of Lawrence Halprin worked with the architectural firm Teng & Associates to relocate a section of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, thereby creating a dedicated campus for cultural institutions along the shores of Lake Michigan. Halprin’s design surgically relocated northbound traffic lanes from the waterfront inland to align with the existing southbound lanes. He also raised the freeway and installed tunnels and bridges at pinch points to make the area more pedestrian friendly.
Lighting and plantings adorned the new pedestrian routes, while parkland and bike paths were built along the lakefront where the northbound lanes were located to better connect the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium.
Lake Shore Drive is a United States Highway managed in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration. While the highway is constantly undergoing improvement and expansion, the portion of Lake Shore Drive designed by Halprin appears to be well-maintained. Furthermore, there do not appear to be any immediate plans for expansion or renovation.
However, Halprin’s role in creating a cultural campus along the shores of Lake Shore Drive by relocating the north bound lanes goes unrecognized by the Chicago Park District, the Federal Highway Administration, and the cultural institutions currently benefiting from the project. This is in some part due to the relocation project affecting a relatively small portion of the Highway, but it was a realignment that resulted in new parkland with improved waterfront access, streamlined transportation routes, and additional walking and biking trails at the heart of a large urban center. Halprin’s work in Chicago underscores his talent for reimagining and activating urban space, even in the absence of grand plazas and monumental fountains. As a rare surviving Chicago commission, recognizing and interpreting his subtle intervention is a challenge that should be explored on-site and through designation as part of a broad Lake Shore Drive or U.S. Highways historic district.
Iska studied photography at the Institute of Design in Chicago where he received a B.S. Survival and re-birth have been themes in his work ever since his first documentary project on the decline of the steel industry in the 1980s. Iska is also interested in the history and design of Chicago’s parks, and the ways they have served their communities over the years. He explores the urban experience with a camera, and through his blog “In and About the City.”