How Chicago Brings Back Wild Nature Into the City

When thinking of Chicago you probably think of its famous architecture, and rightly so. In the future you may think of Chicago’s reclaimed land and eco-conscious landscaping. In the last few decades the city has covered rail yards and car parking with natural features (and art!), built new waterfronts where an airport used to be, and are currently expanding their riverwalk to include more natural features. The city’s skyline is a real treat and now so is the pedestrian realm.

Cities around the globe are looking to restore native ecologies, turning back the clock on the destructive landscape practices of past few centuries. The same is true for Chicago, which has a number of experiments along its shores to unbuild the city and find the most effective practices for doing so. In this video, we walk to a few of these sites and explore their techniques for unbuilding the city in order to give it back to nature. The five sites are: Northerly Island, the Field Museum, Millennium Park, the River Walk, and the Wild Mile. We look at each closely to see just how their before and after reveals changing attitudes toward living with nature.

Green Roofs Are An Urban Paradise

Green roofs are pretty great because they assist in flood prevention and can grow crops. Indeed, green roofs are growing in popularity around the world because they are great for cleaning air and cooling cities too! It’s almost as if many urban problems can be solved by converting unused space into usable green environs.

In Chicago green roofs are being planted throughout the city and are proving to be very beneficial. The New Republic decided to reveal the mini-paradises that these small roofs can create.

By 2050, 2.5 billion more people are projected to leave the countryside for the city; in the United States alone, urban land will more than double by 2100. Faced with what scientists call “the urban heat island effect,” cities around the world are encouraging the development of roof gardens. These blankets of wildflowers, grasses, and sometimes even vegetables reduce water runoff, absorb carbon dioxide, and lower temperatures. Chicago is home to the world’s largest rooftop farm: The two acres of land atop a soap factory supply a million pounds of vegetables a year.

Read (and see) more.

Chicago Wants to be a World Class Bicycle City

Chicago politicians understand that people in their city commute sustainably via bicycles and that this is a great component to their transit planning. What’s more is that by building proper infrastructure for cyclists they can draw people to the city and show the world what the future looks like – again. Over at Roads Were Not Built For Cars they provide a very interesting historical perspective on the bicycle in Chicago and how it relates to cities today.

“Bicycling is an integral part of Chicago’s transportation system. Every day, thousands of people bike on our streets, whether it is to ride to work, to the store, or for recreation…My vision is to make Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the United States…Over the next few years, we will build more protected bike lanes than any other city in the country, redesign intersections to ensure they are safer for bicyclists, and improve hundreds of miles of residential streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, and the people that live on them.”

Read the full article.

Skateboarders Help Transform Urban Environments

Skateboarding culture is often (wrongly) lumped together with criminal behaviour amongst youth. To those that still think that way, you should check out a study in the most recent Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability.

By looking at what young skateboarders would do in the city of Chicago the researchers found out that skateboarding culture is a great thing for urban environments. It’s good to see a positive take on a group of people who often get brushed aside.

Young people appropriate and redefine built environments through their everyday playful practices. Among a widening spectrum of young city dwellers, skateboarders transform urban spaces by exploring terrains and performing unforeseen uses. These urban explorations ascribe new meanings and pleasures to otherwise mundane built forms. Waxing ledges is a ubiquitous practice among skateboarders that signals creative appropriation through the application of wax on rough surfaces. The smoothening of ledges enables speed and exhilaration, while the traces engraved on the urban landscape communicate to other skateboarders a pleasurable space.

Read the abstract and full article here.

Proposed Chicago Tower Cleans the Air and Looks Great

Chicago is already internationally known for his stunning architecture and that reputation is set to continue with a new eco-tower. The CO2ngress Gateway Towers will bring the skyline into the 21st century because that building is focused on cleaning the air that people in Chi-town breath.

In attempt to cut down on Chicago’s CO2 emissions produced from cars in the Eisenhower Expressway, Danny Mui & Benjamin Sahagun propose the splitting of the Congress Gateway Towers, using a system of carbon scrubbers and filtration devices that clean carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. Aimed to increase public awareness and improve of Chicago’s public health, the CO2ngress Gateway Towers absorb the CO2 emissions from passing cars and is then fed to algae grown in the building. The algae then helps with the processing of biofuels which will supply the building residents’ eco-friendly cars.

The two towers split and converge at the top to create an iconic gateway to the city. A bridge joins the two towers and contains a public restaurant with views of neighboring buildings. Pedestrian connections are landscaped at the base, accentuating the building’s car-centric identity. Located at the crown of the towers are the carbon scrubbers which capture CO2 and other air pollutants. These scrubbers are the first step in the processing of biofuel.

Read more here.

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