A former side street just off South State Street in Chicago received a beautiful makeover, thanks to a spring-like sculptural grove designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios.
RCH transformed Quincy Court, a remnant of an old downtown street, into an engaging gathering place for Chicagoans and visitors.
Using bold graphic forms, they provided canopy elements, a variety of seating configurations, and hardscape improvements to the half-block space.
Quincy Court and adjoining properties were acquired by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to provide added security and future expansion for the federal government’s downtown Chicago campus. The more immediate goal was to upgrade the look and feeling of the space to make it more appealing for public use.
Quincy Court is bordered by State Street to the east, Dirksen Federal Building (Mies van der Rohe, 1964) to the west, 220 South State Street/Consumers Building (Mundie & Jensen,1913) to the north, and 230 South State Street (originally Benson-Rixon Department Store, Alfred S. Alschuler, 1937) and the back side of 110 West Jackson Boulevard/Transunion Building (A. Epstein & Sons International, 1961) to the south. The design elements—abstracted tree forms, translucent tables with integrated lighting, white granite accent pavers—provide transitional scale between the monumental modern architecture of Federal Plaza are and the pedestrian scale of historic State Street.
“The canopy elements and hardscape details tell the story of the site by alluding to the elements that form Quincy Court’s character,” notes Rios Clementi Hale Studios project architect Jennifer Cosgrove, AIA.
“The design is inspired by the honey locust trees used throughout the federal campus and prevalent in the City, the white terra-cotta detailing of historic Chicago buildings, the Miesian grid of the modernist plaza, and the reflected light patterns of the Dirksen Federal Building façade.”
Rios Clementi Hale Studios—one of two landscape architecture firms selected by GSA for the nationwide First Impressions Program—is already had a background in turning underused areas into well-traveled public spaces. The firm’s had already transformed an alleyway in Glendale, CA, into an artful Chess Park designed to enliven the street, create safe public gathering space, and improve the city’s civic fabric.
“Our common goal for the design of successful public space is to accommodate community gathering, public discourse, and enjoyment for people,” says Cosgrove.
The new plaza features a series of seven tree-like canopy elements made of steel and three tones of translucent acrylic panels that are lit from above after dark. The “trees” are rooted by sandblasted concrete in an abstracted leaf pattern. New granite benches and pavers join existing seating and hardscape materials, while a new site furniture language is introduced using concrete benches and translucent resin tables glowing with inner LED lighting. Four large leaves are situated on the ground, seemingly scattered on the pavement, the “result” of a strong gust well known to the Windy City.