SWA envisions a vibrant future for Chicago’s storied river


SWA’s ideas for three prototypical sites along the Chicago River were revealed to the public Saturday as part of the newly opened Chicago River Ideas Lab exhibition.

Part of the Chicago Architecture Biennale, the exhibit is a collaborative effort led by Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council to stimulate new thinking in support of the mayor’s vision for a riverfront that is more accessible and central to the city’s public realm.

SWA was one of nine design firms invited to participate in the exhibit, which is free and open to the public through January 4, 2018.

Gallery talks, also free, are scheduled throughout the fall so that the public can hear directly from each exhibiting firm. SWA’s talk is scheduled for November 7.

SWA’s Principals Gerdo Aquino and Ying-yu Hung, firmwide CEO and Los Angeles Studio leader, respectively, will share their thoughts on how art, ecology and programming can activate and create unique, site-specific experiences for Chicagoans.

Titled “Blue“, SWA’s vision for the river combines Daniel Burnham’s 1909 open space plan for Chicago with an aggressive orientation towards natural systems, accessibility and the public realm. SWA’s approach for the three prototypical sites explores programming and design that can catalyze pubic investments in infrastructure and development, while also creating imaginative and memorable places.

If you can’t make it to Chicago to see the exhibit, check out the online version, skillfully put together by WSP and Autodesk.


SWA’s Ying-yu Hung and Gerdo Aquino share their thoughts with Chicago’s Deputy Commissioner of Planning and Development Eleanor Gorski and Architect Cindy Roubik.
(L to R: Ying-yu Hung, Cindy Roubik, Eleanor Gorski, Gerdo Aquino)



Architect Ross Barney’s exhibit design, sophisticated in its simplicity, allows visitors to view the boards easily by site or by firm.


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Metropolitan Planning Council Vice President Josh Ellis and Planner Abby Monroe in front of SWA’s Tracking Wacker, an imaginative solution for a linear site that involves introduction of a multipurpose trail, a wetland to cleanse storm water run-off from the adjacent roadway, and a field of LED light poles activated by wind.