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Filter Island at Chicago Biennial
Chicago, IL

Today, Chicago faces new challenges to its physical form. On a semi-regular basis, massive rainstorms overwhelm the Chicago River, which leads to raw sewage overflowing into Lake Michigan. Additionally, the river has become a two-way conduit for invasive species. These invasions cause billions of dollars a year in damage to water infrastructures and ecosystems from Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.

Filter Island cleans the new Chicago River by filtering pollutants in a series of large scale bio-cells. Polluted water flows into Filter Island over a shallow waterfall at the northern edge of the new island. Through a series of wetlands and bio-pools polluted water is cleaned of contaminates before being discharged into the lake. The ratio of water cleansing landscape to park program landscape flips as the park extends southward. Park programs range from ecological wetlands, marshes, and fields to cultural programs such as swimming pools, water parks, sports courts, and playgrounds. The whole island is wrapped in a programmed edge that includes beaches, pathways and break waters.

Rather than hide the water cleaning process, Filter Island reveals it. Rather than employ a heavy industrial, energy intensive system, Filter Island is a passive, low-energy water treatment sponge. But most vitally, Filter Island is a hybridized landscape combining the transportation of water with new recreational spaces.

Photos by David Schalliol and UrbanLab.

Phase: Design Proposal