Chicago Riverwalk

The Main Branch of the Chicago River has a long and storied history that in many ways mirrors the development of Chicago itself. Over the last decade, the role of the river has been evolving with the Chicago Riverwalk project—an initiative to reclaim the Chicago River for the ecological, recreational and economic benefit of the city.

Schuler Shook provided lighting design for Phases 2 and 3, projects that connect to a completed Riverwalk section to the east.  Working with the Department of Transportation, Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki, we designed lighting for the six themed blocks along the south shoreline of the Chicago River – The Marina Plaza from State to Dearborn, The Cove from Dearborn to Clark, The River Theater from Clark to LaSalle, The Water Plaza from LaSalle to Wells, The Jetty from Wells to Franklin, and The Riverbank. Each block also ties in to features like restaurants, play areas, and spaces to learn about the ecology of the river.

Keeping a sense of playfulness and wonder in the lighting design helps create an attractive new space for the public to enjoy. For example, the color-changing lighting in the Jetty is a direct result of hearing the city’s desire to create a visual attraction among the floating wetland gardens at dusk and dark.

Approaching each challenge creatively, the lighting for the Riverwalk is designed to be playful, welcoming, and interactive - a drastic departure from the stark, security-style lighting of the past.


Chicago, IL


Sasaki / Ross Barney Architects


  • IES International Illumination Design Award of Excellence, Outdoor Lighting Design, 2016
  • AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Award, 2016