Kennedy Expressway Green Corridor

Kennedy Expressway Green Corridor in Chicago, Illinois by Perkins + Will, 2003

Ralph Johnson, of the Chicago-based firm Perkins & Will was commissioned by the Chicago Architecture Foundation to participate in their exhibit Invisible City, where Johnson and two other Chicago architects (Brad Lynch of Brininstool + Lynch and Joe Valerio of Valerio Dewalt Train) created designs in response to three different city master plans. Johnson chose the Central Area Plan and responded with the Kennedy Expressway Green Corridor.

Although submerged west of the Loop, the Kennedy Expressway is a physical barrier between the east and west, the former primarily office space and the latter mostly residential. Bridges link the two sides physically, but the neighborhoods lack the continuity of other parts of the city. Johnson's project looks at the possibilities that might arise for both office and residential development if an approximately 1.5 mile length of the expressway were covered with parkland. Spurred in part by Perkins and Will's recent completion of the Skybridge residential high rise adjacent to the Kenndedy, Johnson expanded part of the Central Area Plan which proposed covering a much smaller portion of the expressway.

The basic plan of the project features the aforementioned green covering over the expressway - punctured by openings for exhaust and views to the roadway below - that extends to embrace adjacent developments, and additional towers that help to define the corridor as an appealing frontage for future development. Johnson's towers are articulated to further the sustainable basis of the park, with raised gardens and facades fronting the park shaped to act as wind scoops to circulate and clean the air, along with the park, of the submerged expressway.

Although no chance of realization for the project currently exists, the effect of the project is twofold: to illustrate the creative possibilities of the City of Chicago's Central Area Plan and to create a dialogue within the city (if not beyond) for architects and the city to propose large-scale, sustainable solutions to existing problems within the city fabric. With the recent expansion of office spaces west of the Loop, and the concurrent expansion of the University of Illinois and other west-side developments, Johnson's Green Corridor is a relevant, if dreamlike vision for the future unification of these two areas.