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CHICAGO'S NEW SHOWCASE

WELCOME TO URBANICITY
SENSING URBANITY
LISTENING FOR WORDS
VIEWING IMAGES OF MYSTERY
LOVING MUSIC
READING FOR LIVING
CELEBRATING THE MIND
TRAVELING TO EXPLORE
SEARCHING THE FUTURE
MAKING A DIFFERENCE

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Gehry's model for Chicago's Prizker Pavilion

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When you’re in Millennium Park it feels as though it’s always been there. Hard to believe that a short time ago this 25 acres at the northwest corner of Grant Park was a jumble of railroad tracks and parking lots.

The sinuous pedestrian bridge (photo, left), designed by Frank Gehry, links the area with the eastern part of Grant Park.

His 925-foot long bridge is clad in watery-like, reflective stainless steel panels, and has a gentle slope and hardwood deck.

It’s a lovely walk with wonderful views of the park, the city’s skyline, and Lake Michigan. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Crown Fountain, designed by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, anchors the southwest corner at Michigan Avenue, and is a natural people magnet. The site-specific work creates both a good meeting point (a century ago, Chicagoans like to meet at the Water Tower) and a space for silent reflection. The 500-foot high glass block towers are activated with changing video images and lights, complete with water cascades.

The Harris Theater for Music and Dance is the city’s prime indoor performance space for mid-size arts organizations, and has fine sight lines and acoustics. The nearby Exelon Pavillions, at Randolph Street are yet more venues for special exhibitions.The wide Chase Pomenade that crosses the park is a walkway for fairs and festivals in good weather.

The star of the place is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, and easily the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind in the U.S.

The Lurie Garden, designed by Kathryn Gustafson and her team of landscape architects, has distinctive spaces, both large and intimate, defined by sculpted hedgerows and pedestrian pathways. A 15-foot high "shoulder" hedge encloses the garden on two sides, and a hardwood walkway follows a pool of water that cuts diagonally through the garden, separating it into a "light plate" with 240 varieties of perennials, and the "dark plate," shaded by cherry trees. It’s a sensory experience day and night, in all seasons.

Cloud Gate, the 110-ton, 60-foot long sculpture, by the British artist Anish Kapoor, was inspired by liquid mercury. The elliptically-arched work is made of highly polished stainless steel plates. People walk through and around it, watching the ever-changing reflections of themselves and surroundings.

Location is everything. Across the street are stores and restaurants, the famously wide sidewalks, and the old Central Library, now the Chicago Cultural Center. The Art Institute is a block away. Then there is the ice rink, the Park Grill, and Wrigley square. It’s a place of many parts that act as one, as inviting as any great public place in Rome or Siena.

                                     

Half of Millenium Park's $475 million price tag was paid through private donations. That's the way it works in boomtown Chicago, thanks to the most powerful big city mayor in America, Richard Daley.
 
Winning 80 percent of the vote in the last election, he can probably be mayor for as long as he likes-- controlling public housing, the public school system, and the city council. In his 16 years at city hall he's built tight connections with global businesses and local philanthropists-- and everyone pitches in with each new project.
 
Big on education, he wants to replace failing schools, and already has dibs on $24 million in private funds for his reform program. And they're rolling out the green in other ways, with miles of grass belts and nature paths. Meanwhile, the original skyscraper town is going as high as the construction cranes will reach.
 
 
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Chicago's new Cloud Gate, by sculptor Anish Kapoor

more on Cloud Gate

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