Metropolis Planet Positive Awards Valerio Dewalt Train

Valerio Dewalt Train

Ford Calumet Environmental Center

Chicago, Illinois

The Ford Calumet Environmental Center at Big Marsh Park revitalizes a wetlands landscape once marred by 20th-century industrial waste. The facility and surrounding park serve as an educational hub, community center, and eco-recreation destination. Upon entry into the 9,300-square-foot Center, visitors are immersed in an exhibit that showcases the site’s history and mission and celebrates local activists. The building, which houses classroom spaces, offices, and a bike repair area, was designed with flexibility in mind, with movable displays and a retractable wall that allow the space to adapt for local events and activities. Architectural elements like the mass timber structure, wood enclosure, and 89% recycled Corten steel cladding, represent a low-carbon future while connecting with the site’s industrial heritage. The facility also boasts Chicago’s first-ever blackwater treatment wetland, a sustainable design innovation that saved the project the cost of extending the nearest sanitary sewer. The facility and park cater to the community, providing four surrounding underserved minority communities with much-needed recreational space and welcoming local hobbyists. Located along a major continental bird migration route, the grounds attract birders (and the building’s bird-safe design supports the traveling wildlife). The building is also the icon that marks the finish of a competitive bike course. The design’s success goes beyond the revitalization of a damaged landscape, also nurturing a sense of belonging and environmental stewardship in the Calumet Region.

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