Discover the exciting diversity of Chicago’s famous architects and architecture as we trace its development…
Whether you’re young, or just young at heart, Maggie Daley Park has quickly become a must-see in downtown Chicago.
Its whimsical, curving layout encourages active recreation. The story of how the park came to be provides an interesting look at how Chicago’s downtown has evolved.
From Functional to Fun
Chicago may still be a mighty industrial city, but the days of downtown factories are long past. Rail yards once occupied much of the land south of the river, but shrank steadily through the 1900s. In 1953, a parking garage was built on the land where Maggie Daley Park stands today. Daley Bicentennial Plaza was built on top of the garage as a green roof in 1976.
Daley Bicentennial Plaza was a formal, rectilinear landscape featuring a wildflower garden, tennis courts and an ice skating rink. Frank Gehry’s sinuous, metallic BP Bridge lured curious visitors to cross Columbus Drive, only to find a timeworn park out of step with the glitz and excitement of Millennium Park and the growing Lakeshore East neighborhood.
A Landscape of Wonder
Crucial repairs to the leaks in the underground parking garage created an opportunity for reinvention. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, known for innovative and inviting landscape work in New York City, won the international competition to design the outdoor space. The firm re-imagined the park as a place for active recreation at all times of the year, and renamed it in memory of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s late wife.
Once the garage’s waterproof membrane was replaced, a new landscape was created. Lightweight geofoam was used to shape the park without overburdening the garage. Curves, hills and valleys provide unique vistas and easy movement through the space while shielding visitors from harsh sun, wind and traffic noise. A quarter-mile-long skating ribbon (ice skating in winter), a collection of themed play areas and 40-foot climbing walls are just a few of the park’s attractions.