Special Event: Friends of Chicago River


Chicago, Illinois, USA

For an event to raise awareness and funds for the Friends of Chicago River, host company USG Interiors invited Starr Design to participate in the planning and visual design of the celebration.

Referencing the non-profit organization’s mission to preserve the beauty, health and public access to the Chicago River, Starr created abstracted vignettes of urban river views within the manufacturer’s showroom. Painted plywood to look like low concrete pillars and railing is evocative of the celebrated Michigan Avenue bridge. Other dimensional settings referenced open space at the river’s edge and a river embankment. To extend the party atmosphere, the mini-sets were draped in reflective fabric and washed with colored lighting. With a nod to the serendipitous “street musician,” each urban vignette had live musical performers bringing unique sounds to the event.

As the attendees were a mix of architects, designers and industry partners, the big message of the fundraiser was that design has a powerful impact on the environment. In that vein, one of the evening’s activities was an impromptu competition to design new waste and recycling bins that could be used to preserve the river’s beauty and potential. In addition to garnering funds for the organization, the real benefit of the event was showing the local design community that they could mobilize and effect change through creative advocacy.

Creative Team

This project was a collaboration with Linda Buchanan and Robert Kempa.