Chicago Portage National Historic Site Picnic Shelters

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

Portaging: The act of carrying a canoe overland from one body of water to another. Typically, canoes were carried upside-down overhead and often used as shelter for overnight camps.

The Chicago Portage National Historic Site commemorates the place where Native Americans led Marquette and Joliet to the portage connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi, ultimately linking the Atlantic with the Great Lakes. Conceptually the design draws inspiration from traditional canoe construction, with steel bents (inverted "u-shapes") forming the main structure similar to the u-shaped straps that form the canoe hull. The structural bents are arrayed as a series of parallelograms to suggest a back-and-forth movement as with the act of rowing and portaging. The roof plane floats underneath like the floor boards of the canoe. The structure is cor-ten steel, relating to the existing site sculpture while being virtually maintenance-free.

The overall effect is a lattice-like form that is light in appearance, with the slender vertical structure filtering light and views to the woodland beyond, while casting intricate branch-like shadow patterns.

Rather than pseudo-historic, the design is ambitious and forward-looking, authentic and responsive to the spirit of exploration and advancement that this historic site celebrates.



Architect of record

Thomas Hoepf, FAIA
exp US Services
205 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone: 312.616.7379
thomas.hoepf@exp.com

Photographer

Thomas Hoepf, FAIA
exp US Services
205 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60601, USA
Phone: 312.616.7379
thomas.hoepf@exp.com