Lincoln Park Zoo Visitors Center

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Visitor and Welcome Center
Status: Under Construction
Size: 9,500 sqft

The Lincoln Park Zoo, one of North America’s oldest, has evolved since its 1868 founding into an institution that connects people with nature in the heart of Chicago. Through its focus on quality and conservation, the Zoo embarked on a capital campaign to re-work its visitor experiences; this includes a dynamic east pavilion.

The new pavilion, which comprises of an entry gate, visitors center, administrative offices, membership lounge, and public washrooms tucks behind a natural landscape. Two buildings formed in the shape of a “J” are visually tied together by an innovative structural canopy. Cantilevered frames support and hang from one another, similar to a delicately stacked card tower. These opposing forces: tension and compression, balance out in an effect that appears to effortlessly levitate. As visitors gave up, a pattern of layered branches filters light as if peering through the branches of a tree.

A courtyard, scattered with boulders and a blooming tree, is wrapped by offices. The information center, with its retracting walls, opens to the Zoo grounds in the summer months, enriching the visitor experience. As the Zoo closes, a monumental gate with the same layered branch pattern closes. Pivotal to the design and security of the building and more broadly the entire campus, the pattern had to be calibrated to discourage climbing. Through many interactions and mock-ups, a design evolved to include sharp angles and tight voids that deter adventurous guests after hours.

Above all, the Visitor’s Center represents the aspirations of a Chicago Institution that has become one of the last free Zoo’s in the country with a memorable building that is a gateway to the park, city, and world beyond.

McDonald’s Chicago Flagship

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Flagship Restaurant
Status: Under Construction

The new Chicago Flagship celebrates the pure simplicity and enduring authenticity of McDonald’s, welcoming both residents and visitors to a playful and informal gathering place in the heart of the city.

The site is a full city block, just steps off Michigan Avenue, occupied since 1985 by the iconic “Rock ‘n Roll” McDonald’s that emphasized drive through services. The new design re-balances car-pedestrian traffic creating a city oasis where people can eat, drink and meet. Landscape area increase 72% with 43% of the site being open and pedestrian focused, producing a new park-like amenity for a dense area of the city.

The dining room features a garden planted with ferns and white birch trees floating above a digital ordering “street”. From this vantage point guests can experience the landscape beyond and above. Over shared tables with wireless charging and outlets, “tapestries” of living plants improve indoor air quality and provide a backdrop of green gradients. What might surprise many can be found on the adjacent kitchen roof: a row of harvestable apple trees can be seen through a clerestory window, telling a story about the future of urban farming and the utilization of often underused space.

McDonald’s corporate commitment to “make sustainability the new normal” is at the core of the new restaurant design. The structural system, Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), will be the first commercial use in Chicago and has a lighter environmental footprint than concrete and steel. The solar pergola will capture the sun’s energy, supplying part of the buildings consumption needs. Throughout the site, permeable paving is used to reduce storm water runoff and the heat island effect. The building is designed to achieve LEED certification.


Location: Rogers, Arkansas
Program: Public Park
Status: In Design
Size: 5 acres

With a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, the City of Rogers, Arkansas has embarked on a project to design a new downtown park. What is currently Frisco Park and a series of parking lots will be re-visioned enhance economic development, spur placemaking, and improve connectivity. Situated on the east boundary of Rogers’ historic downtown district, the new park has the potential to capitalize on recent public space investments and help to make downtown Rogers a regional destination.

The project deployed a robust community outreach effort, which has helped build a sense of ownership and pride from city staff and the residents. Through a digital survey that collected over 1,000 responses and in-person charrettes the design team has helped define the park’s desired outcomes and objectives through the words of the community. This shared vision has resulted in five emerging priorities: Inviting, Memorable, Challenging, Beautiful, and Authentic.

Rogers, as a city, has been defined both economically and physically by the railroad. The first plat of survey, completed in 1881, uses the rail to create a strong dividing line. The park’s design ignores the rail as a barrier and stitches the east and west together. The result is a series of plazas that can transform throughout the day, week, month, and year. These versatile and flexible spaces create a new and distinct rhythm that extends beyond the park into adjacent streets.

Between the ribbons, which are formed by the adjacent city context, a “room” is created. These densely vegetated and programmed spaces help create unique experiences throughout the park and further frame this piece of downtown as the new center instead of the edge.

NASA Aerospace Communications Facility

Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Program: Research Laboratory
Status: In Design
Size: 55,000 sqft

The Aerospace Communications Facility (ACF) will consolidate research laboratories that are currently located in seven different buildings on Lewis Field into a single, state of the art research facility consisting of efficient, flexible communications laboratories, collaboration spaces, and information technology support areas. A prominent feature of the facade is an articulated skin that reflects that pragmatism of the campus by manipulating light, views, and reflectivity while paying homage to the research within.

The project is designed to be Net Zero Energy Ready (NZER), incorporating energy features identified in the Net Zero Energy Buildings Roadmap prepared by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

River Edge Ideas Lab

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Invited Ideas Exhibition
Status: Complete, 2017

Nine world-class architectural firms, including Ross Barney Architects, were invited by the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and the Metropolitan Planning Council to participate in the River Edge Ideas Lab. The goal: inform a new wave of riverfront investment. Three iconic sites along the Chicago River were selected, each representing a typical edge condition: a building edge, an open space edge, and a bridge edge.

The proposal, River Rituals, connects existing trails and parks along the River using deployable floating water walkways creating opportunities for new rituals at any river location.

Lyric Colonnade (Civic Opera Edge)
As a visible public space for the Lyric Opera, Lyric Colonnade can become Chicago’s newest cultural destination. The Opera’s off-season (June, July, and August) now comes to life with aria’s, exhibitions, transportation, and river performances.

Congress Filter (Congress Parkway Edge)
Everyday 70,000 people pass over the Chicago River unaware of the city’s adverse impact on its founding resource. Congress Filter strives to elevate the river in an effort to educate the public on our efforts to improve river health.

St. Charles Raceway (Air Line Bridge Edge)
Through a network of pivoting bridges that float along the South Branch, this stretch of river becomes a stadium for boating and swim races.

River Edge Ideas Lab Exhibition Design

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Exhibition for 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Status: Complete, 2017

Nine world-class architectural firms, including Ross Barney Architects, were invited by the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and the Metropolitan Planning Council to participate in the River Edge Ideas Lab. The goal: inform a new wave of riverfront investment. Three iconic sites along the Chicago River were selected, each representing a typical edge condition: a building edge, an open space edge, and a bridge edge.

Beyond an extensive digital presence, the Lab was housed in a physical venue designed by Ross Barney Architects for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. With a density of content, the studio transformed this 1600 square foot gallery into an airy experience of thirty-six design ideas.

Organized against an aerial backdrop of the Chicago River, a grid system was devised to organize the custom exhibition frames. Each of the three sites aligns with their respective geographic location on the aerial while each firm’s ideas are presented in the opposing direction. The result is an underlying presentation strategy that allows visitors to experience the exhibition content by site or design philosophy.

With this rare opportunity to discuss urban visions with the public, the exhibition also deployed interactive elements including a survey, bingo, and write-in wall. The feedback generated throughout the exhibition’s duration were cataloged by the City and will be memorialized in future plans for the River.

Belmont Gateway

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Program: Multi-modal transit exchange
Status: Under Construction

Historically, the Chicago Transit Authority has been a city center focused system, optimized for weekday commuters. As the reach of public transit expands beyond the dense urban core, multi-modal transfer, between train and bus, can often be confusing and frustrating. The Belmont Gateway aims to provide an iconic transportation hub that provides needed amenities to pedestrians while generating a neighborhood identity for the Avondale community.

Inspired by one of Chicago’s “Seven Lost Wonders”, the Olson Waterfall, the station is animated with a dynamic form that is activated on a rainy day. By replacing existing infrastructure, connections to the underground station and numerous bus routes that intersect this busy corridor will be improved and streamlined. A new enclosure will provide a seating area with wind break, bus tracker, heat, and new wayfinding maps.

Designed to accommodate a pre-paid zone for buses, the station will be one of the first in the city to begin piloting new methods of passenger efficiency. In a second phase, both pre-paid infrastructure and an elevator will be installed; consolidating the user experience for both train and bus passengers.

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