Chicago Children's Museum reimagined as Navy Pier redevelopment continues

The new visitor experience will be defined by significantly easier wayfinding and orientation
– Tom Jacobs, principal at Krueck+Sexton Architects

Visitors to Chicago’s historic Navy Pier will soon be able to enjoy a new streamlined experience for its children’s museum, which is currently undergoing an extensive design overhaul.

Reimagined by local firm Krueck+Sexton Architects (K+S), the Chicago Children’s Museum redevelopment plan calls for a cleaner, less cluttered appearance, with refreshed exhibition spaces and a significantly more streamlined visitor experience, relocating all access to the main floor of the museum.

“The new visitor experience will be defined by significantly easier wayfinding and orientation,” said Tom Jacobs, principal at K+S, speaking to CLADglobal.

“The ground floor will be dedicated to ticketing, group entry, and a gift shop, in clear sight of the main pier routes. The exhibits, located on two different floors, will be linked by a central circulation zone and elevator, alleviating the current maze-like path through the museum.”

According to Jacobs, the clarity in movement will help to decrease visitor fatigue, with new rest areas and snack spots increasing wellbeing and comfort for visiting families. The pier’s outdoor promenade will also be improved, better connecting the museum with a reimagined entranceway.

“A highly iterative design process involving all key stakeholders was utilised,” he said. “This assures that an exciting solution is implemented, meeting the needs of the users, being maintainable by staff, and being both environmentally and financially sustainable over time.”

The plan sees half of the museum's exhibits completely overhauled. One of the key features – a full-size replica dinosaur – will be placed in a prime location at the cultural attraction’s entrance, while an expanded 2,000sq ft (185sq m) interactive art experience will increase the number of hands-on activities available. There are also plans to build a 35-foot high (10.6 metre) climbing structure, with Phoenix-based Ganymede Design Group creating the interactive sculpture.

Work on the redevelopment started in the third quarter of 2017. The museum has pencilled in June this year for its grand reopening. The museum is part of a larger reimagining of the city’s Navy Pier, which is being transformed by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations into a cultural hotspot for the city.

“The renovation was planned in close coordination with the Navy Pier improvements, both from a design and implementation perspective,” said Jacobs.

“Major pier improvements include more open and generous circulation routes, which improve visibility and access to Children’s Museum. The significantly toned-down design aesthetic of the pier works well with the experience-driven exhibits and attractions in the museum.”

Future planned attractions for the pier include a museum dedicated to the Chicago blues and an extension to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. A cable car designed by Marks Barfield Architects is also being considered to link the pier with Millennium Park and the Chicago Lakefront.

Navy Pier welcomes more than eight-million guests annually. Originally opened in 1916 as a shipping and recreation facility, it now has more than 50 acres of parks, restaurants, attractions, retail shops, sightseeing and dining cruise boats.

Other design, engineering and consultancy firms who have collaborated on phase one of the project include Gensler, Thorton Thomasetti, Environmental Systems Design, Terry Guen Design Associates, Jeffrey Bruce + Company, Fluidity Design Consultants, Pentagram, Re:Vision, Buro Happold, Billings Jackson, Primera, Kimley-Horn, Construction Cost Systems and D’Escoto.

Chicago  Navy Pier  Krueck+Sexton Architects  Chicago Children’s Museum  Tom Jacobs  Ganymede Design Group  museum 
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Visitors to Chicago’s historic Navy Pier will soon be able to enjoy a new streamlined experience for its children’s museum, which is currently undergoing an extensive design overhaul. Reimagined by local firm Krueck+Sexton Architects (K+S), the Chicago Children’s Museum redevelopment plan calls for a cleaner, less cluttered appearance, with refreshed exhibition spaces and a significantly more streamlined visitor experience, relocating all access to the main floor of the museum. “The
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Work on the redevelopment started in the third quarter of last year. The museum has pencilled in June this year for its grand reopening / Krueck+Sexton Architects
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