Opened in 1916 and named to honor WW1 veterans, Navy Pier has evolved into one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions, with over 9 million visitors annually. Stretching out 3,300 square feet from the shoreline of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier is a renowned exhibition and entertainment area, featuring numerous restaurants, an IMAX theater, a children’s museum and a Shakespearian theatre, to say nothing of its iconic Ferris wheel.
To help commemorate its 100th anniversary, Navy Pier underwent an extensive $115 million renovation intended to renew its architectural, cultural, environmental, and recreational landscape while expanding the Pier’s audience. Known as the Centennial Vision, this plan advocates more evening and year-round entertainment, more compelling landscape and design features, and a more engaging relationship between visitors and the water. Renowned landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations won an international design competition in 2013 to help transform this vision into a reality.
One of the important pillars of the Centennial Vision plan is the further development of green space to both engage and attract the public. To this end, Chicago’s legendary Polk family gifted $20 million to Navy Pier; specifically for the design and development of the entrance park. This 13 acre greenspace, named Polk Bros Park, now serves as the Pier’s “front door” and includes three beautiful, highly interactive and programmable outdoor spaces meant for showcasing arts and cultural programming.
Upon entry, the focal point of the Park is a dramatic interactive fountain plaza. In collaboration with James Corner Field Operations, Fluidity Design Consultants designed and engineered the new interactive fountain for Polk Brothers Park, which consists of a ring array of arching jets nestled within an innovative, sloping convex landform. The 147 NEF Series jets are programmed to mimic complex algorithmic patterns like waves, schools of fish, or flocks of birds. In the center of the plaza, an intricate system of flush mounted LED007 Series lights and more nozzles help create an ambient space, alive in color at night.
The rhythmic outer patterns of the jets can expand either outward or back from the circle’s circumference, with the delicate streams of water and accompanying splash zones illuminated by LEDs. Sequencing shows will continue to complement this evening lighting to ensure the fountain provides a dramatic and inviting experience throughout the park’s operating hours. All fountain equipment was installed to the highest specifications and professional standards by Fountain Technologies Inc.
Together with Polk Bros Park, dramatic renovations of the Centennial Vision, and a new and comprehensive arts and culture plan; Navy Pier will continue to augment its reputation as a world class public space and vibrant Chicago landmark. Guests of Navy Pier will have the daily chance to celebrate this great American city with a winning combination of character, history, entertainment, and authenticity.