By Jordan Wilkinson, PLA
My wife and I recently took a weekend trip to Chicago. We made an effort to do as much and see as much as we could during our 3 day trip. After making the obligatory trip to “The Bean” in Millennium Park, we walked east to visit Maggy Daley Park. Opening in 2014 and designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Maggie Daley Park sits at the northeast corner of the larger Grant Park adjacent to Lake Michigan. The roughly 20 acre site was formerly a parking lot and railyard.
A short walk over the BP Pedestrian Bridge from Millennium Park will bring you right into the heart of Maggie Daley Park. The park’s rolling topography and sinuous paths contrast with some of the more traditional gridded elements of Grant park. Major programmatic elements include a rock wall climbing area, which is completely surrounded by the Skating Ribbon. This ice-skating circuit becomes a destination for rollerblades and scooters during the warmer months. A large fieldhouse sits adjacent to the skating ribbon and functions as a community center. Nestled within the blended hills and paths sits a large 3-acre playground complex referred to as the Play Garden. The Play Garden truly is the heart of Maggie Daley Park, and contains a range of play experiences. My favorites include the Slide Crater, which includes a suspension bridge and some incredible spiral slides. The Enchanted Forest (for all ages) is a more natural play area that contains a system of pathways that focus on sensory exploration. Massive upside-down trees form gateways to walk through.
Surrounded by the beautiful skyline of downtown Chicago, it Is hard to not appreciate the beauty of this park. Although the high-rises tower overhead, the densely planted green spaces of the park do a great job of making the hustle and bustle of a busy city center fade away. Clean details help to reinforce the design of the park, and a plant palette of largely native species seems to be flourishing in this environment.
My only gripes about the park? The concrete post light fixtures used throughout seem out of touch with the rest of the park, and dogs are not allowed within the park.
All images by Jordan Wilkinson