BY Kate May
Imagine the pure pleasure of sitting in open breezy spaces and enjoying the waterfront.
Urbanism experts say great waterfronts can be a city’s greatest assets if the stakeholders make the most of the opportunities the assets provide.
Waterfronts can also transform cities to become the world’s most liveable. While we have our very own work-in-progress River of Life (ROL) project in downtown KL to transform the historical Klang River into a vibrant and liveable waterfront, the Chicago Riverwalk in downtown Illinois, the United States, is now finally fully open to the public after work commenced 15 years ago.
According to the ArchDaily architecture website, with the third and final phase of the Chicago Riverwalk completed, the 1.5-mile long promenade revitalises an underutilised industrial area into public space featuring restaurants, cultural activities and amenities.
The promenade also reconnects the once swampy Chicago River to the city.
Chicago Riverwalk’s designer Ross Barney Architects was entrusted with the responsibility to transform what had become a post-industrial leftover into a 21st century urban waterfront.
The first phase, completed in 2009, includes Chicago’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Wabash Plaza and Bridgehouse Museum Plaza.
The second and third phases are homes to six conceptual outdoor rooms each designed to interact with the waterfront in a unique way.
These are the Marina; Cove; River Theatre; Water Plaza featuring a sundeck and children’s fountain; Jetty, an interactive river ecology learning area about the Chicago River and what makes it tick; and Boardwalk, a space for relaxing and enjoying views of the nearby floating gardens that surround an iconic bridge. There are even fishing piers.
Chicago sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Riverwalk has an uninterrupted route to the lake for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Chicago Riverwalk was also designed to be expanded into a swimming area when the water is clean and swimmable.
Its architects hope the Chicago Riverwalk will become a public amenity that protects the river, one of the city’s most precious resources.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian capital’s ROL project which began in 2012 involves cleaning up and beautifying the Klang and Gombak rivers and developing the surrounding land.
The goal is to attract more investments and economic activities to serve KL and its residents better as well as enhance quality of life and urban wellbeing.
The ROL project includes the recently announced KL River City development which will span 13km along the Gombak River.
The Klang River (which was used to transport tin in the olden days), which is also a prominent landmark, features iconic structures including the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Masjid Jamek mosque that stands at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers.