The city of Chicago set a goal of planting 15,000 trees by the year of 2015 in order to demonstrate its dedication towards providing a clean environment for its citizens. Yet with the opening of Mary Bartelme Park (in honor of the first female judge of Illinois), the city and its mayor, Daley, have made a much bigger statement.
The park was designed by Site Design Group, a landscape architecture firm from Chicago, and is truly innovative. 2.3 acres make up the space that once was a University of Illinois at Chicago infirmary. After consulting the Chicago Park District and West Loop Community Organization, Site Design Group decided to create a park that was “out of the box”, as they felt that’s what the people of the neighborhood wanted. Their mission was to keep the costs low but to design a park that the community members would be proud of and want to maintain. Mary Bartelme Park was the result, and is not only “out of the box” but is also eco-friendly. The park makes use of special pavers that actually soak up smog in the air.
The design of the park is a testament to the fact that being cheap can be good for the environment. Site Design made use of recycled terra cotta lintels from the infirmary to create a variable-height seat wall. Native plants were another low maintenance choice. Yet it’s the pavers that make the park stand out. Using a new technology, TX Active, the pavers are comprised of photocatalytic cement. In plain English, this means that the cement reacts to sunlight and speeds up the oxidation of pollutants. In the end, they’re turned to salts that are not harmful for the environment and actually reduce the nitric oxide in the atmosphere. When it rains and sunlight is minimal, the pavers (which are permeable) allow the rainwater to filter back into the ground instead of into the sewer. First used on the exterior of the Jubilee Church in Rome, the cement, which is also self-cleaning, seems like a promising material for the future.
Instead of a traditional foundation, Site Design stuck with the theme “innovation” and created a stainless steel water feature that mists park-goers who walk through. The park also boasts an 11,000 square foot play-scape with legs that move when you simply push a button. Mary Bartelme Park could be an example for other cities to follow when redesigning their outdoor spaces. What do you think? Join the conversation at Project: Change https://twitter.com/projchange
Written by Ashley Ellis