Chicago Magazine – “The River Queen”

Carol Ross Barney named a 2017 Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine.

“Since 1994, this magazine has honored Chicagoans who are doing extraordinary things. Below, you’ll meet a Hamilton star and his wife who are raising funds to fight epilepsy, an architect who helped reclaim the Chicago River for the public, and two scientists who came out of retirement to cure a horrifying disease. You’ll be inspired by the lawyers who volunteered to help passengers affected by the Trump travel ban, the Englewood photographer who is showcasing the everyday beauty of her neighborhood, and a man taking radical steps to curb the wave of opioid overdoses.”

“Think of downtown’s River Theater as a grand urban gesture. The complex geometry of steps, seating, and ramp overlooking the Chicago River pours down effortlessly from Upper Wacker and sings with energy, serving as a middle finger to the A Sunday on La Grande Jatte–type formality of other riverside parks.

Carol Ross Barney is the architect behind it and the rest of the 15-years-in-the-making Chicago Riverwalk, which has transformed the city’s main waterway into a dynamic public amenity. You need only observe the crowds lounging or walking or biking or sipping wine along the eight-block path, which runs from Lake Michigan to Lake Street, to understand the Riverwalk’s gravitational pull…

The Riverwalk is a sharp reminder of the power that architects can have as designers of democratic environments, not just trophy buildings. And for Ross Barney, it’s merely one of the latest, though certainly the most ambitious, efforts in her 40-year career of bringing sumptuous yet functional aesthetics to public projects such as CTA stations and federal buildings. This year, through the project Our Great Rivers, she has worked with city and community groups to develop ideas to make the Chicago, Calumet, and Des Plaines waterways more accessible, such as creating swimming holes and jogging paths. ‘If we are to inhabit this planet for much longer,’ she says, ‘then we must make our cities more livable.'”

To read Anjulie Rao’s profile in full, visit