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Marks Barfield and Davis Brody Bond design 'iconic' cable car for Chicago

Marks Barfield Architects, the creators of the London Eye, have been tasked with designing a cable car across Chicago that will become an “iconic attraction” for the city.

Chicago-based theatre impresario Lou Raizin and real estate investor Laurence S. Geller are behind the ambitious scheme, called The Chicago SkyLine, which has been designed in collaboration with US architects Davis Brody Bond.

Speaking at a city event, Raizin and Geller outlined their vision for the project – over 800 aerial gondolas that “will soar above the river” between Millennium Park, the Chicago Lakefront and Navy Pier, transporting 3,000 people per hour and energising the city’s Riverwalk.

“The SkyLine is a prime example of how we can move Chicago from old guard to vanguard,” said Razin. “We kept coming back to the same question: what’s our unique feature? Where’s our Eiffel Tower? Where’s our Big Ben? These ideas are our attempt to answer this question and are intended to start a conversation in the city about what we would like our reputation to be in the future.”

Marks Barfield originally mooted the cable car idea as part of a 2011 competition to renovate Navy Pier, which they lost to James Corner Field Operations. However, the concept caught the imagination of Raizin, who admired how the London Eye had become a London icon and tourist attraction and wanted the same for Chicago.

The Chicago SkyLine’s lightweight, pearl-like cable cars are inspired by jewels in a necklace, and the cables will be linked to fabricated pylons made from weathering steel. The gondolas will rise 17-storeys high to clear the mouth of the river and let boats pass under.

“The whole piece is very delicate with a gentle character that quietly fits in with the scenery – it’s bold but not brash,” Marks Barfield managing director David Marks told CLAD. “There have been such advances in glass technology recently that we felt could be utilised imaginatively and elegantly in the design of the pods. They are bespoke and designed from the ground up to be state-of-the-art, efficient and comfortable, with high-quality glazing and seating.

“I think it could easily follow the model of the London Eye, with a similar impact in creating an attraction immediately identifiable with the city.”

A feasibility study has been completed for the Skyline, plotting possible routes, station destinations, wind speeds and likely users. A number of firms, including glass pod firm Poma, have previously worked with the architects on the London Eye and the forthcoming Brighton i360 ‘vertical cable car.’

While the scheme has yet to receive planning permission, Geller said he was confident about his vision for Chicago’s future. “Dreamers we are,” he said, “naive we are not.”

Marks Barfield  Davis Brody Bond  cable car  Chicago  Navy Pier  Chicago SkyLine  London Eye 
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Marks Barfield Architects, the creators of the London Eye, have been tasked with designing a cable car across Chicago that will become an “iconic attraction” for the city. Chicago-based theatre impresario Lou Raizin and real estate investor Laurence S. Geller are behind the ambitious scheme, called The Chicago SkyLine, which has been designed in collaboration with US architects Davis Brody Bond. Speaking at a city event, Raizin and Geller outlined
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The cable car's pods are designed to be lightweight and elegant, like the jewels on a necklace / F10 Studios
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Company profile: Robert D. Henry Architects + Interiors
Robert D Henry Architects (RDH-Architects) was founded in 1990 in New York City by Bob Henry, known as the “sensuous architect of serenity.”
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