2019 Newhouse- Advanced Architecture: Dragon Boat Racing Facility


The task is to design a Dragon Boat facility, housing boats and supplies, while also promoting public engagement, in Ping Tom Park. Another part of the challenge is to design a connection between the east and west sides of the park. The sides of the park are currently separated by railroad tracks. Both a physical and digital model are required for this project.

Collect Info

To begin researching this project, I visited multiple different boathouses across Chicago. I spoke with the staff and boat racers to hear about some of their needs and concerns. Next, I visited Ping Tom Park and got a tour from a community member in Chinatown. He showed me around the park and talked about its history, importance and purpose. It was very deserted and cold, since I went in the winter. There was also a lot of empty, grassy spaces. The last thing I did to prepare for this project was learn about dragon boat competitions, how often they occur and how long the boats are.

Brainstorm Ideas

To begin my design, I began with making bubble diagrams. I reorganized the bubbles/spaces numerous times until I reached a layout that I thought was best for the plot. With the research I did on other boathouses, I took inspiration from them for my design. I then began to sketch potential designs for my structure. I took notes on the design aesthetic that I wanted to achieve and I sketched various designs to do so. I wanted this design to be modern but also maintain the cultural heritage of the neighborhood. I looked at traditional Chinese architecture and tried to elevate it to a new and urban style. I also thought it would be more convenient and innovative if the structure was actually located on top of the river. This could make the space more fun and popular since it is so unique to the neighborhood.

Develop Solutions

I wanted my design to be simple and to have a straightforward program. I thought that by doing this, the building would look more clean and friendly to community members. My program consists of a seating area, boat storage area and also a gym area. Outside of the building is a dock area, where you can take the boats out, and a pathway to the mainland. The second floor balcony will just have more seating so that you can go up there and watch the boat races.

Final Design

My design consists of a two floor structure on the Ping Tom Park river. The first floor is an L-shaped layout and consists of boat storage, seating and training facilities. It is also where you can access the dock. You can access the first floor from the pathway connecting to the park or from the second floor through the stairs/elevator. The second floor has a curved L-shape canopy to provide shade from the sun. You can access the balcony through the bridge connecting the building to the other side of Ping Tom Park or through the stairs/elevator from the first floor. This space can be used to watch the boat races or just as a hangout area for when the weather is nice. It also gives 360 views of the river, the park, and the Chicago skyline. Having the structure directly on top of the river allows boat racing to be more efficient and faster. It also provides a cool atmosphere to community members by its special environment. It could serve as a potential landmark to the neighborhood. The smooth and transparent design allows the building to feel welcoming and not intimidating. The design is also apparent in its Chinese roots but with modern innovation. The uncomplicated program gives the building a clear purpose and mission.