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
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.