Located in the north-eastern part of Grant Park in Chicago Maggie Daley Park is named in honour of City’s longtime first lady, who was dedicated to improving the lives of children and enriching the culture of the city. The new Park incorporates a surprising diversity of play facilities and opportunities for children of all ages and abilities. Incorporating a network of curvilinear paths and layout of play facilities, dramatic topography and many whimsical elements the Park serves as a counterpoint to the symmetry and formality of Grant Park to the south and the Cancer Survivors’.
The Chicago Park District Board engaged the landscape architectural firm of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) to design the new park. Community consultation over several years helped to determine the programming for the park.
To create a broad range of experiences, the park design by MVVA is based upon two axis’, which are referred to as the ‘Park Axis’ and the ‘Play Axis’.
The Park Axis incorporates a shallow valley running northeast to southwest across site, which makes a strong connection to the landing point of the pedestrian bridge link to Millennium Park. Approaching the Park from Millennium Park across the sinuous BP Bridge designed by Frank Geary visitors experience constantly changing views of the surrounding park landscape and Chicago city skyline.
Once in the Park visitors encounter a landscape that varies in character, scale, and seasonal appearance that provides a progression of views as people move through the landscape spaces. The curvilinear paths respond to the variation in the constructed topography that allows visitors to experience a series of views and landscape situations within the park. Construction of rolling topography on the existing flat side provided an opportunity to improve long distance views east to Lake Michigan and views north and west to the distinctive Chicago city skyline.
The Play Axis runs from the northwest to southeast incorporating a diverse range of recreational activities.
ccupying the northwest sector of the Park ‘The Ribbon’ offers ice-skating an activity closely integrated into the landscape. Located within a grove of evergreen trees, The Ribbon has a visually dramatic backdrop formed by the city skyline. In the summer, the paved surface of The Ribbon is used for multiple activities, including bikes, scooters and roller blades.
In the centre of ‘The Ribbon’ are two large custom-designed rock-climbing structures that provide an outdoor recreational experience for both beginners and experienced climbers. Reaching a height of about 14 metres the rock climbing walls have a total surface area of approximately 1,900 square metres with capacity of 25 to 100 climbers. The wall is divided into a beginner and advanced sections that provide for three different types of climbing: bouldering, lead-harnessed and top rope. Instruction and supervision is provided by trained park staff. Watching people scaling the vertical faces of the structure is intriguing. The combination of the Skating Ribbon and Climbing Park achieves the project aspiration of a park for all seasons, inviting and engaging to all Chicagoans and visitors alike.
Located in the south east portion of the Play Axis the ‘Play Garden’ provides a diverse range of play facilities and opportunities for children in all age groups. Defined in terms of topography and planting, the ‘Play Garden’ contains multiple zones and a mix of active and nature play and social interaction. A notable facility based in the Park is a range of activities offered to teenagers in the arts, communication, science, sports and technology that are managed by After School Matters a non-profit organization. The program is now the nation’s largest out-of-school facility of its kind.