“ I think, overall, the structure has really proven itself for high-visibility, versatile spaces. And after this experience, we would totally specify Upfit again.” —Craig Soncrant, Principal at Confluence
Formerly known as The Merchandise Mart, theMART is one of Chicago’s most iconic buildings, deeply woven into the city’s fabric as an innovator in culture, art, design, and business. As the largest privately held commercial building in the U.S., theMART’s vibrant wholesale design centers and preeminent modern office space attract an average of 30,000 people each business day and nearly 10 million people annually. Running parallel to the Chicago River on the building’s southern facing side, the recently completed Park at theMART transformed a typical overlook area into a riverside destination with over 500 linear feet of multi-use and urban green space.
Kicking off the project with a collaborative design charrette, landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm Confluence joined Gensler and Olin Partnership to create a range of different visions for the transformation of the theMART’s riverwalk park. The selected design built on an existing seasonal structure solution to create a space that was more cohesive and more aesthetically refined yet still maintained its distinct versatility. “Given the park’s location— its central position in the sought-after River North area and its proximity to theMART’s many businesses—we wanted to create a space that was equally as suited to holding an outdoor meeting as it was to just hanging out and enjoying the view of the river,” describes Confluence’s Principal, Craig Soncrant, PLA, ASLA, SCUP.
With the park’s southern exposure, providing adequate shade across variety of use cases was a key consideration in Confluence’s vision for the space. For Soncrant, Landscape Forms’ Upfit adaptive outdoor structures were a clear choice, providing both the protection from the elements and important amenities to support active and passive use, to create lounge spaces, social spaces, and co-working spaces. “We were given a broad and dynamic program from theMART, and Upfit just fit that. What was so compelling was how flexible Upfit is in its capabilities—on an everyday basis, the structures are an ideal place for an outdoor meeting, and for special events, the Upfit units provide power to easily become a hub for food vendors,” describes Soncrant. “And this flexibility is compounded by Upfit’s expandability. Down the road if requirements change, we can incorporate features like Upfit’s partitions or peninsula tables to completely change the structures’ functionality. I think, overall, the structure has really proven itself for high-visibility, versatile spaces. And after this experience, we would totally specify Upfit again.”