August 31, 2010 The Unbiased Writer

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

Written by Ashley Ellis



  1. BIGdaddyMAC

    Why weren’t the parks this cool when BIGdaddyMAC was coming up? These youngsters get everything…Wish I had an iPod when I was a kid lmao

  2. Lance-Chandler

    A tree grows in Brooklyn and now 15000 to grow in Chicago. Well, kuddos! Cheers!! The “old” and the “new”…… And what a wonderful idea and initiative. And also, how fitting! I mean, Chicago will be and I’m sure has been getting a lot more press. Time to make things pretty!! lol I was doing some reading yesterday, this that and the third, “the worst cities in the world,” yadda yadda… It was despicable and upsetting to say the least, but the tress that have to be cut down, the environmental changes man… And for what?? There is a price to be paid and that IS being paid and an even bigger fire that is burning, the fires that -sometimes, quite literally- burn in industry. It’s disguisting! I said to a friend yesterday, “one day the whole world will be a wasteland.. I mean there are beaches now that are becoming uninhabitable. Sure there’s a lot of new age/new way thinking going on, -mostly, I think, “from within” based on personal changes, and maybe it does start there- but the rate at which things are worsening… Idk man we all have to catch up and ask ourselves: what are we willing to risk? For a day of comfort today, but an uninhabitable world tomorrow? I’m reminded of the artist Fitzgerald. The man who had two opposing ideas in his head yadda yadda, and believes in them both simultaneously… We can’t say yes to “keep things the way they are,” because “God forbid, I have to change my way of “‘living”‘ -cars, production, industry, oil, etc- and also yes to “a greener way of life and living.” Choose! To be doubled minded. Like the man who looks in the mirror and once he walks away he forgets what he looks like….. 
    Perhaps, there might have to be a change, a re-shift to yesterday. to a more rural, old-world way of living… Idk
    “Yesterday, all these troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though there here to stay, oh I believe in Yesterday, Suddenly….” And evidently, so does Chicago! Good work.

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