Thompson Dyke & Associates, Ltd.
Buckingham Fountain Restoration; Chicago, IL

Client: Chicago Park District
Architect: Urbanworks, Ltd.
Engineers: AECOM; Delta Engineering, Inc.; Klein & Hoffman, Inc.; Wet Design, Inc.; Milhouse Engineering, Inc.
Contractors: Burling Builders; Butler Street Foundry & Iron Co.; LPS Pavement Company; Unilock
Consultants: Charter Sills & Associates, Inc.; Construction Cost Systems, Inc.; McKay Lodge, Inc.
Category: Memorable Landscapes

The Buckingham Memorial Fountain is the iconic centerpiece of Chicago's lakefront landscape. With a primary water element that reaches an awe-inspiring 150' in the sky, the fountain long held the distinction of the world's largest decorative fountain. An 82-year-old landmark that draws millions of visitors annually, it has become a victim of its own popularity and aging infrastructure. Understanding its visible role in the urban fabric of Chicago, the City undertook a $25-million restoration project, the most extensive ever performed on the majestic fountain. The project involved widespread site improvements, replacement of mechanical systems, restoration of bronze and stone elements, as well as accessibility and sustainability related objectives.

The landscape architect led the design team in a rigorous analysis and design strategy for both the fountain and the fountain table that enhanced the timeless design, met the needs of millions of annual visitors and incorporated sustainable strategies to support the long-term future of this Chicago landmark. The team was challenged to restore and enhance this public space through compliance with multiple regulatory agencies, all the while respecting historic design objectives.

The process included extensive study of archival plans, period postcards and photographs from the owner's archives to determine the site's original features and intent. Pathways that had since been removed were reintroduced and majestic hawthorns, privet hedges and planter areas were returned. Juxtaposed with the historic renovation, the improvements also incorporated cutting-edge stormwater infiltration techniques, such as permeable paving, in line with the City's sustainable agenda.

In April 2009, as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley ‘flipped the switch' on Buckingham Fountain, marking the official opening of the world-famous landmark's 82nd season, he noted, ‘This fountain represents Chicago's great history and its many unique traditions that generations of Chicagoans and visitors have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy for years to come.'