Youth are Designing the Future of Our Rivers - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Youth are Designing the Future of Our Rivers

Gerardo Arroyo

A river barge designed by Gerardo Arroyo for the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Newhouse Architecture & Design Competition

Can you imagine a park or gym floating on the river? What about a community center or restaurant?

The Chicago Architecture Foundation recently completed its annual Newhouse Architecture + Design Competition, in which students from across Chicago submit architecture designs. Awardees are chosen by panels of expert architects, planners and engineers. One of the categories this year was river barges! Students were asked to submit a creative design concept for a river barge and write a short essay describing what would take place on the barge and how it would serve as a community center and public space along the river. MPC worked with the CAF to create the guidelines for this category to reflect the inviting and productive goals of the Our Great Rivers vision.

Submissions ranged from practical to fantastical. The boldest physical designs included a barge shaped like a stingray and one shaped like a snail. Many combined creative design and function, such as the submission below, which incorporates the shape of a leaf and seeds/pods, and focuses on sustainability.

The river barge designed by Vladimr Ayala, a student at ACE Technical Charter High School

Ultimately, the Overall Grand for river barges was awarded to Gerardo Arroyo at Benito Juarez Community Academy. His barge was designed specifically to serve as a job center, restaurant and green space for residents along the Sanitary & Ship Canal of the Chicago River. The barge contains a job training center that would offer free classes to community residents. The restaurant on the barge would earn money to support the free classes, and after hours, the large classroom could be used as a community space.

River barge designed by Gerardo Arroyo, a student at Benito Juarez Community Academy

We were so excited to see the designs for riverfront barges, and hope some of these will become a reality! This creative thinking will make Our Great Rivers come to life—and it's the kind of project MPC had in mind for our 2020 goal to draw people to our rivers.

In fact, we are already seeing creative uses of barges come to life. This summer, check out the Floating Museum’s Art Barge, which will be traveling throughout the City!

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