Looking at aerial pictures of Chicago, it is impossible to miss Navy Pier. Extending 3,300 ft. into Lake Michigan, the public landmark has long been recognized as Chicago’s cultural icon. EXPO CHICAGO is proud to call Navy Pier home as we redefine the cultural significance of this grand space.
Navy Pier is an internationally renowned, marquee public attraction for visitors across the world. With numerous restaurants, expansive presentation spaces, grand ballrooms and stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, Navy Pier is the ideal high profile venue for EXPO CHICAGO.
As we approach the first centennial of this incredible landmark, it is important to understand its future as well as its past. Built in 1916 for $4.5 million, Navy Pier was originally conceived as a storage space and clearinghouse for lake freighters and their cargo. Designed and developed by Daniel Burnham and associates, Navy Pier was first noted in their extensive redesign of Chicago at the turn of the century. According to the initial Burnham Plan, Navy Pier—as it’s known today—was designated as Municipal Pier #2, and to be part of a series of five equally sized piers. As with much of the Burnham Plan, this series did not come to fruition, and Municipal Pier #2 took on much larger significance.
Throughout the last century, Navy Pier has improved and benefited Chicago in a multitude of ways beyond its original intent. In World War II, Navy Pier gained its current title when it was leased to the U.S. Navy as a military training center for sailors and pilots. Following its military use, Navy Pier was used as a place of learning when the University of Illinois leased it to educate returning veterans and to house large-scale public expositions.
Despite falling into disrepair due to neglect in the 70s and 80s, Navy Pier continued to house significant cultural events, and developed a reputation for its dilapidated charm. The neglected space continued to deteriorate until 1989, when the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority took control. After an extensive renovation in the early 90s, Navy Pier has experienced a rebirth focused on inclusion and urban-living.
Currently, Navy Pier is under the operation of Navy Pier Inc. As we look to another impressive century, Navy Pier Inc. is preparing The Centennial Vision: A Framework for Reimagining Navy Pier. EXPO CHICAGO is proud to lead Chicago towards the dynamic Navy Pier of the future. It is through this Centennial Vision that Chicago can redefine the role of the modern public space.
Today, Navy Pier stands as a shining example of urban renewal. Now operated by Navy Pier Inc., the space is poised to show the world a new direction for contemporary public spaces. EXPO CHICAGO is proud to take the first step in presenting the bright future for this revered landmark.
For more information, visit The Centennial Vision.
Peter Lillis is a local contributor for The Seen.