Valerio Dewalt Train Marries the Industrial With the Natural for a Bike Park and Educational Center in Chicago
2021 Best of Year Award Winner for Environmental Impact
The marshes on Chicago’s southeast side were once a dumping ground for slag from nearby steel mills, the casualty of little to no environmental regulation up until the 1970’s. Now they’re Big Marsh, a new bike park that covers almost 300 acres with walking and cycling trails plus a 9,300-square-foot environmental education center that tells the history of the site. Part of the reclamation story is the building itself. Marrying the industrial with the natural, VDT designed a nail-laminated timber structure with hydraulic hangar doors that close over windows at night. NLT is a renewable resource, highly effective at carbon sequestration, and requires less energy to produce than steel or concrete.
Media Objectives, VDT’s experiential graphics studio, masterminded wood, steel, and acrylic exhibition panels chronicling the damaged ecosystem’s restoration. “It’s a wonderful example of how architecture can be combined with other media to deliver a powerful message,” design principal Joe Valerio notes. Fun fact: A constructed wastewater wetlands system—the first in Chicago—filters the building’s blackwater via a leach field, the same process that occurs naturally in the marsh. It’s a neat alternative to connecting to the city sewage system on the other side of the river.
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