The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo transforms a 19th century picturesque urban pond unable to support animals into an ecological habitat buzzing with life. With the design’s improvements to water quality, hydrology, landscape, accessibility, and shelter, the site is able to function as an outdoor classroom that demonstrates the exciting intersection of wild and urbane.
Restoration included deepening the pond to provide better oxygenation to support aquatic life, and reestablishing the watershed around the pond. Added plant shelves filter run-off water to recover water quality and create habitat zones for animals.
A new boardwalk circumscribing the pond passes through various educational zones that explicate the different animals, plants, and habitat found in each. The 31 mile boardwalk—composed of planks made from recycled plastic milk bottles—also provides views of existing architecture of Chicago. This preservation of old and new exhibits the importance of preservation in Green design.
Location: 3400 North Rockwell Ave, Chicago, IL, USA
Completed June 2010
Size: 16 acres
A pavilion integrated into the boardwalk sequence provides shelter for open-air classrooms on the site. Its shell structure is composed of laminated prefabricated, bent-wood members and a series of interconnected fiberglass pods that give global curvature to the surface.
The pavilion’s primary material, Douglas Fir, was chosen for its structural integrity and harvesting from a region whose environmental policies protect natural habitats and biodiversity. Douglas Fir’s natural resistance to mold and decay adds to the project’s sustainability by reducing the standard chemical treatments normally applied to increase a structure’s longevity.
As a welcoming, informative, and ever-transforming sanctuary, the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo is a model of reclaimed and expanded green space that educates its visitors on the values of environmental conservation.