Public walks

Biomimicry in Urban Space – Evaporation, with Nina Elder and Alexis Elton

When: Sunday April 21 at 12pm

Where: Meet at Indian Ridge Parking Lot,12208 S Hoxie Ave, Chicago (map below)

This walk takes us to SEPA Station #1, which is a Side-stream Elevated Pool Aeration system – basically, an attempt to imitate the oxygenizing activity of riffles, eddies and waterfalls in an otherwise stagnant canal. Nina Elder and Alexis Elton, resident artists at Watershed from April 19-30, spoke with us about their interests in evaporation and the wider concept of biomimicry, and that’s what led us to this site. As the Park District people write:

“SEPA Station #1 is a Side-stream Elevated Pool Aeration system, which utilizes vertical propeller pumps and waterfalls to increase and maintain the dissolved oxygen concentration of the water in the Calumet River-Main Channel waterway. It is located where S. Torrence Ave. meets the Calumet River in the South Deering Community Area. In December 2018, the Chicago Park District entered into a lease agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and began ecological restoration and management of the land around the pool.”

The site is located in what is simultaneously one of the most polluted areas of Chicagoland, and one of the most extraordinary examples of ecological restoration in our metropolitan area. Before industries came to dump their toxic waste, this entire area was a wetland hosting a panoply of year-round inhabitants and visited annually by migrating birds. Now under the care of rather than the attack of humans, places like Indian Ridge Marsh, within walking distance to the north, are returning to exuberant life amid the industrial ruins. Those who may never have been to Southeast Chicago can slip under the railroad embankment to see the Cal Sag channel, with its barge traffic, raw materials ports and factories, or cross the old iron bridge over to the Ford Motor plant. If the city is an organism, then these are some of its major metabolic processes, on the entangled border between nature and industry. Let’s be the internalized organelles, and metabolize this environment artistically, through perception, expression and form-giving activities. Or anyway, let’s take a walk to an outlandish place with people from out of town who will share what promises to be a fascinating afternoon.

PS, check the library for two books on biomimicry if you’re curious (to get in, metabolic). No one is expected to read anything for these walks, your senses are all you need!