As the City of Chicago works to transform the long-polluted and neglected Chicago River into its next recreational frontier, Studio Gang’s WMS boathouse at Clark Park helps catalyze necessary momentum. “The architecture is meant to visually capture the poetic rhythm and motion of rowing,” said Jeanne Gang, Founder and Principal of Studio Gang Architects. “But by providing a publically accessible riverfront, it also reveals the larger movement toward an ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River.”
The boathouse’s design translates the time-lapse motion of rowing into an architectural roof form, providing visual interest while also offering spatial and environmental advantages that allow the boathouse to adapt to Chicago’s distinctive seasonal changes. With structural truss shapes alternating between an inverted “V” and an “M”, the roof achieves a rhythmic modulation that lets in southern light through the building’s upper clerestory. The clerestory glazing warms the floor slab of the structure in winter and ventilates in summer to minimize energy use throughout the year.
The 2100-square-meters complex consists of a two-story mechanically heated and cooled training center, one-story boat storage facility, and a floating launch dock. The main building houses row tanks, ergometer machines, communal space, and an office for the Chicago Park District. Boat storage accommodates kayak and canoe vendors and includes office space, as well as clear span storage for rowing shells and support equipment.
all images © STEVE HALL