Reutan Sands: (E)Merging City-Lakefront Landscapes


Reutan Sands: (E)Merging City – Lakefront Landscape is a  submission to the Graham Foundation’s “21st-Century Lakefront Park Competition,” which asked entrants to envision a park on two miles of developed, Chicago lakefront. The submission was a recommended scheme that was selected for exhibition and publication.

Interboro’s scheme proposed new public spaces to work as stitches that would traverse lake and city as a new kind of in-between, and would weave the park more palpably into everyday life. In doing so, Interboro looked to create hybrid spaces between the busy rhythms of the city and the natural expanse of the lake.

Project Team: Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore, Christine Williams


Chicago is perhaps known best as a great city on a lake, with a vast park in between. These lakefront spaces-all spectacular-are separate from the everyday life of the city. They are destinations, requiring effort to be reached, not on the way to anywhere but the water. Visiting the lakefront in Chicago is an excursion, a planned event, one often done with specific intent (visit the boat, go to the zoo, see the fireworks, take a long walk). The Chicago parks were born of a 19th century view of public life, when the time and space of leisure was very separate from that of work or domestic duties, and when the enjoyment of such places was frequently limited to the privileged classes.

Chicago’s lakefront is organized in bands: moving west to east, one encounters first city then park then water. In each band one moves freely north and south, but the crossing between them, west and east, is more difficult. The bands rarely overlap. The ingredients that make park band so splendid-open green spaces, programmed recreation and attractions, a continuous walk/bike path, a grand vehicular drive, an active water edge-combine like the tightly wound strands of a great cable lining Chicago’s waterfront. In the north two miles of Chicago’s lakefront, the cable unravels. Public access becomes limited, cars from Lake Shore Drive spill out into the grid, joggers and bikers must make their own way on city streets and alleys, passers-by strain for a glimpse of the water that is only steps away. Lakefront use and access here is unfortunately limited. Yet this atypical environment also offers a unique opportunity, for nowhere else in the City does the urban fabric meet the water so directly.

We propose new public spaces to work as stitches, traversing lake and city as a new kind of in-between, one that weaves the park more palpably into everyday life. In doing so, we create hybrid spaces between the busy rhythms of the city and the natural expanse of the lake. The new park is not a buffer or a grand reprieve, but a thirdspace that emerges when city and lake meet face to face.

Traveling west to east becomes fluid, with every street gradually transitioning from urban

fabric to open space to water. The north/south axis is more variegated: as one navigates the water edge, pieces of the city-reflecting the context to the west and exaggerating it-jut out and interrupt the experience, making space for unexpected encounters. The interlocking teeth of city and water allow for a new form of urban space in the grooves, spaces that allowing for more diversified experiences at the water’s edge, ones that are potentially more egalitarian, more easily accessible, more of a part of everyday life. The new stitches between city and lake rely upon typical, easy to implement marine engineering strategies for a new landscape that is not disruptive but will, over time, radically transform the north side lakefront.

The resulting spaces work at many physical scales-local, neighborhood, regional-and at many temporal scales as well. They are not fixed strategies, but a set of flexible interventions that can be phased in over time, creating different conditions that serve immediate needs, provide an interesting interim landscape, and ultimately have a transformative impact on the neighborhood, but one that is built off of its own logic. It is a process of additive chance that does not seek to radically disrupt, but allows new typologies to emerge when existing spatial qualities are expressed in a new context. Throughout the year, the spaces take on different forms and are suitable for different uses. We have taken care to introduce programs that extend the seasonal window of everyday park use and offer variety over the course of a day.

The future vision for the lakefront involves four organizational principles:


The city streets push out to the east, bringing the specific qualities of each

neighborhood into contact with the water edge. The street extensions act as groins to trap the littoral drift of the shore. Littoral drift, the movement of sediments caused by wave action, typically moves from north to south on the western shoreline of Lake Michigan.


Over time, the lake’s natural processes will fill in the

spaces between each street extension with new land, supplemented with fill as needed.


By creating new land, we make space to introduce a public walk/bike path,

extending Chicago’s system of continuous public waterfront access from Lincoln Park north to the city edge.


The infrastructural stitches between city and lake

will bring the benefits of lakefront public amenities deeper into each neighborhood. Over

time, new, more diverse programs associated with lakefront programming will spark up near each stitch.


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