2022 Merit Award
Chicago Park District
site design group, ltd.
Seneca Park is a quiet oasis and well-loved community amenity that is immersed in Chicago history and sits at the crossroads of art, nature, culture, health, and community in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. The design was developed through an in-depth community outreach process and the need for an update to this valued community space. The site previously contained outdated post and platform structures with mulch on the ground layer. The new design envisions a functional, flexible, and updated amenity for surrounding residents, patrons of the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art, and staff, patients, and visitors of the Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. site design group, ltd. led the design process for the entire one-acre park, which includes plans for a sensory garden that serves as a shady nook for rest and reflection, a sunny lawn that promotes gathering, an allée passageway that provides an important connection to the adjacent community and additional space for gathering, events, and activities, as well as the Phase 1 scope of work, a custom playground. The expansive playground accommodates toddlers through 12-year-olds with two distinct play spaces separated by age group; 2-5 years and 5-12 years. The playground promotes creative, non-linear play and provides fully accessible play opportunities for children through completely custom-designed play equipment with two overarching themes: Dunes (2-5 years) and the City (5-12 years). The concept for the 2-5 year playspace was inspired by the dune ecosystem that was likely present on this site before the development of Downtown Chicago. As a nod to the history of the site, the design focused on the experience of traversing or playing on dunes. The design creates a continuous experience that allows children to traverse the dunes in various ways, whether it be over them on bridges and fences, around them on pod steppers, down them on one of five types of slides,or through the dunes in the hollowed out log tunnel. The play space is whimsical and colorful but drew inspiration from real dunes, including driftwood play pieces and the bridges that were designed based on real bridges found on dune walks. The 5-12 year playspace reflects the surrounding City and draws inspiration from the adjacent fire station, though two main vertical tower features. The taller blue tower is inspired by the triangular form of the historic circa 1869 Chicago Water Tower, located west of the project site across Michigan Avenue. The red tower is a shorter, stockier tower inspired by the adjacent firehouse, Chicago Fire Department Engine 98. The tower has countless details that are reminiscent of a firehouse. On the exterior, climbing elements and ladders allow children to get up and see into the adjacent firehouse, as the windows are set a few feet above grade. This community-led vision for Seneca Park has transformed this community park into a modern, vibrant, multi-faceted space that promotes healthy lifestyles, creativity, and community building for generations to come.
Owner / Client: Chicago Park District
Project Landscape Architects: site design group, ltd., Artemisia Landscape Architecture
Engineers: TERRA Engineering; Advance Consulting Group, International; Applied GeoScience
Contractor: Speedy Gonzalez Landscaping