Ping Tom Memorial Park

2019 Newhouse- Advanced Architecture: Dragon Boat Racing Facility

Design a Dragon Boat facility that will house boats and supplies and activate public engagement in Ping Tom Park

Ping Tom Memorial Park opened in 1998, when the Chicago Park District transformed a former Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad yard along the South Branch of the Chicago River into a rolling green space, characterized by traditional Chinese landscape design elements set against breathtaking views of the downtown skyline.

Today, the park includes several gathering areas and recreational facilities, including a pagoda-style pavilion, a state-of-the-art fieldhouse (opened in 2013), and a boathouse where visitors can rent kayaks during the summer season. The park hosts the annual Chinatown Chamber of Commerce’s Dragon Boat Race for Literacy. Thirty-two teams compete in the race which is viewed by over 10,000 visitors. The Greater Chicago Dragon Boat Club, a community dedicated to the 2,000-year-old Chinese rowing sport, would like to make the park one of its hubs but is unable to due to the lack of a storage facility.

For all the park’s amenities, community access is limited by divisions in the landscape. These include railroad tracks which divide the park into two sections and a lack of wayfinding signage to connect the park’s facilities. The Ping Tom Park Advisory Council and the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community are working to improve the park through community-led public art and improving infrastructure to guide visitors and local residents from the Chinatown neighborhood into the Park.


The challenge is to design a Dragon Boat facility that will house boats and supplies and activate public engagement in Ping Tom Park. It is of critical importance that a design considers connecting the east and west parts of the park, which are currently separated by railroad tracks and that make it difficult for pedestrians to enjoy the park in its entirety. This advanced division calls for the development of both a physical and digital model.

Collect Info

Try this:

  • Research Chicago Park District boathouses and other facilities that facilitate public engagement in city parks.
  • Visit both the park site (entrance at 19th and Wells) and the Leonard Louie Field House (1700 S. Wentworth Ave.) in Chinatown. Take detailed notes of what you see, hear, and feel when you’re in and around the park.
  • Look at the history of the neighborhood. What has changed over time? What’s planned?
  • Learn about dragon boats, the culture that produced them, and the communities that use and celebrate them today.

Explore these resources:

Brainstorm Ideas

Try this:

  • Consider the landscape features around your proposed building and the cultural context of the greater neighborhood. What could your design add to the community?
  • Make a massing model of the building, play with scale.
  • How does your building make the park more cohesive, both in terms of design and human activity?
  • How does your building reflect and respond to the architecture, history and culture of the neighborhood?

Develop Solutions

Try this:

  • Determine and document the “program” of your building. (What’s inside your building?)
  • Create perspective renderings and analyze how your design fits in the context of the site through plan and section

Get Feedback and Improve

  • Ask your teacher, friends, family, neighbors, what they think of your design.
  • Get professional feedback at CAC’s Teen Open Studios.

Final Design

Submission Requirements

Register for this division | by 4pm by Thursday, April 18, 2019

5 renderings uploaded digitally | on Slideroom by 4pm on Thursday, May 9, 2019 in order to qualify for jurying:

  • LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_rendering1.jpg, LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_rendering2.jpg, etc.
  • Caption each of your photos to explain what is being shown

An essay (250-300 words) uploaded digitally | on Slideroom by 4pm on Thursday, May 9, 2019 in order to qualify for jurying

  • How does your dragon boat facility encourage community engagement and activity throughout Ping Tom Park?

A physical model of your final building, set within the park landscape | turned into your teacher or drop off location by 4pm on Monday, May 13, 2019 in order to qualify for jurying

  • While your submissions must include thought into the layout of your design, you are NOT required to build out the interior of your building in your physical or digital models
  • Show your overall design in context on the site

Stacked renderings center mounted on a single horizontal board | turned into your teacher or CAC by 4pm on Monday, May 13, 2019 in order to qualify for jurying

  • Renderings will be 24” x 18” stacked and center-mounted on a single 30” x 20” horizontal board. CAC will provide a printing template. Renderings may be printed on any paper surface
  • Include site elements (trees, people, etc). Be sure to include at least one scale figure
  • Pre-made digital models can ONLY be used for people, plants, and interior design.
  • Fill out and apply competition entry labels with your unique participant ID number (Slideroom ID). Do NOT include your name or school anywhere visible on your model

Judging Criteria

  • Renderings must show an effective use of the digital programs.
  • Solutions must show comprehensive thought over how individual phases interact with each other.
  • Showcase what makes your design innovative and practical.
  • Show creative and appropriate representations of building materials—texture, color, and scale.
  • A model must show craftsmanship and care: no excessive glue or materials, clean cuts/joints, etc.

Submit the project on Slideroom

Projects must be sumbitted by Thursday, May 9, 2019

Submit on Slideroom