More than 50 years ago, construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway forced the demolition of Chinatown’s Ping Tom Memorial Park and Fieldhouse. Shortly thereafter, Leonard Louie, the founder and chairman of the Ping Tom Memorial Park Advisory Council, made it his life’s mission to rebuild this important community amenity. The Public Building Commission of Chicago (PBC) hired Wight & Company as design-builder to take on the important task of creating a new fieldhouse, eventually renamed as the Leonard Louie Fieldhouse. As is common with clients who utilize the design-build method, the PBC had a fixed schedule, site restrictions, and a limited budget. They also had a desire to create an aesthetically pleasing, high-performance, lasting environment.
Utilizing a detailed design-build scheduling approach, Wight & Company’s design team began working on the early phases with the client, while the construction team began aligning contractors. The active involvement of construction team members during design facilitated early discussions regarding constructability of material and allowed the team to utilize real-time estimating to continually verify that costs were within budget. The integrated design-build team also worked together to make sure the design was taking into account the phasing of the building so that any temporary needs could be addressed.
Our design for the overall massing of the Fieldhouse builds upon a prototypical design in order to adapt it to a complex site and surrounding context. A major feature of the exterior expression of the new Fieldhouse is a towering exposed structural steel canopy with steel column supports. As both marker of the main entry and a daylight shading device for the new community terrace, the iconic canopy is supported by two 50-foot-tall custom-designed steel columns, each terminating with a nest-like connection to the horizontal canopy structure above.
Additional enrichments to the prototypical design included red metal panel accents adjacent to the Welcome Plaza. Inscribed on the metal panels are the Chinese characters that translate as “community” to tie the building into the context of the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Welcome Plaza provides a clear entry sequence and is an appropriate place for large groups to congregate in the historic neighborhood. Closer to the building’s entrance, another hardscape plaza incorporates the Chinese symbol for ‘luck’ within the brick paver design. The facility’s north side offers a rustic garden of native plants within culturally relevant landscape design, providing a place of rest and relaxation. Overall, the landscape surrounding the Fieldhouse tells a story of simple beauty and peacefulness.
The Fieldhouse was designed to reflect the spirit and character of the community, serving as a hub for adults and children to gather, socialize, and grow. The 30,000-square foot, single-story building is fully accessible. Large dynamic spaces, such as the pool and gymnasium are the center of activity. The pool is very lively and energetic, but when not in use, it offers a deep and introspective atmosphere. These features provide ample opportunities for a variety of community interactions.
In line with the Public Building Commission’s mission to develop high quality and sustainable public buildings which bring on-going benefit to the City of Chicago, the project was designed to – and has achieved – LEED Platinum certification. LEED strategies for this facility included a geothermal heating and cooling system, a rainwater harvesting system, diversion of construction waste from landfills, and utilization of durable and recycled materials in construction, among others.
- 2014 Award of Merit, Government/Public Buildings, Best Projects Award, ENR Midwest
- 2014 Silver Ribbon Award, Friends of the Chicago River
- 2014 Bruce Abrams Award, Good Neighbor Awards, Chicago Association of REALTORS®
- 2014 Merit Award Finalist, Construction Under $15M, Chicago Building Congress