Awards, Press Releases

Waterline Receives Landscape Architecture Award

Image © SOM/Spirit of Space

Chicago, IL: Waterline, a multimedia effort by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, will receive a 2013 Merit Award from the Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The award recognizes the work of SOM’s City Design Practice and its partners — Friends of the Chicago River and Spirit of Space, a creative agency — in producing Waterline.

Waterline communicated the immense potential for a rebirth of the Chicago River through a two-month public exhibition at the Bridgehouse Museum that featured the work of 12 students from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. A series of three documentary videos by Spirit of Space further communicated the transformative thinking of the student designers, garnering over 30,000 views online in addition to the 5,000 museum visitors.

“Through outreach, Waterline poses a provocative question to designers, city leadership and the public,” said Cameron Barradale, ASLA, of SOM. “How can underutilized natural assets become the foundation for the future of our cities?”

Waterline examines the South Branch of the Chicago River between Wolf Point and the Near South Side of the Chicago. This corridor of approximately one mile touches Chicago’s central city, transit hubs, office core, industrial corridors, and emerging residential and arts neighborhoods. Winding through these diverse land uses, the river presents complex design challenges.

Waterline contributed to a major shift in Chicago toward viewing the River as an outdoor recreation destination. In Sept. 2011, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced nearly $1 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toward this goal.

“Much like Lake Michigan is Chicago’s front yard, the Chicago River is our backyard. It should be an asset that people across the city enjoy, not avoid,” Mayor Emanuel said upon announcing the EPA’s grant funding.

The river is crossed by one million pedestrians every day, yet rarely do people stop and contemplate the river as a positive amenity or a place to spend time. Waterline inspires Chicagoans to see the river as an asset that can provide ecological services while contributing to the city’s social, cultural and economic life.

About SOM’s City Design Practice

Founded in 1936, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP is one of the world's leading architecture, urban design, engineering, and interior architecture firms. SOM’s global City Design Practice advances bold ideas for the future of cities, creating sustainable, livable and resilient places on five continents. The City Design Practice – the most highly awarded urban planning group – has completed some of the largest and most complex urban development projects in the world, such as the Beijing CBD East Expansion and Canary Wharf in London. Major projects in Chicago include the Chicago Central Area Plan, Millennium Park Master Plan, Lakeshore East Master Plan, and Chicago Riverwalk Framework Plan. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi

About Friends of the Chicago River

The mission of Friends of the Chicago River is to preserve, protect and foster the vitality of the Chicago River for the plant, animal and human communities within its watershed. Friends of the Chicago River has been working since 1979 to enhance the vitality of the Chicago River. Friends participates in a broad range of public and private partnerships that reach across the watershed. Friends believes that all Chicago River uses - commercial, civic, recreational and natural - can co-exist harmoniously when each is advocated for and respected. Visit for more information about our current activities.

About Spirit of Space

Spirit of Space is a creative agency that uses digital media to celebrate and promote a greater awareness of designed environments for the architectural profession and the wider public audience. Visit for more information.

About Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban-planning firms in the world, with a 75-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with more than 1,700 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.