A travel journal
to Chicago by billmoy
Quote: Chicago is a world-class city with many interesting activities and attractions. I am a lifelong resident of Chicago. I like to say that I have been around the world, but I still like returning home to my birthplace, Chicago.
I have been a member of the Art Institute for 15 years, but there are other fine museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art, Terra Museum of American Art, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Big Three of the Museum Campus (Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium).
Chicago is an American mecca for architecture buffs from around the world. The city is a treasure trove of modern architecture designed by legends such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan, Helmut Jahn, and Bertrand Goldberg.
The downtown area contains or is within walking distance of zillions of attractions, hotels, and restaurants. I am always asked if walking in downtown is "safe." Indeed, the big bad city may intimidate the untrained visitor with its urban attitude. However, I always say that as long as you use common sense (for example, do not count your stash of cash in the middle of a busy street), you should have few problems wandering about Chicago. Walks along the lakefront and down Michigan Avenue are essential to any visit in Chicago.
Tuesday is a great day for art lovers in Chicago! The Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, and Terra Museum all have free admission and extended hours on Tuesdays (the Terra has free admission every day it is open in 2003). The Chicago Cultural Center is free all the time. You can stop by for loads of free maps and brochures and perhaps spend some time perusing art exhibits or performances.
If you enjoy my reviews on Chicago activities, please take a look at my accompanying journals: "Bill at home in CHICAGO - Accommodations" and " . . . Dining."
I would like to thank my colleague and frequent travel companion, Chicago architect Marius Ronnett, for sharing many of these magnificent images of his adopted hometown.
Attraction | "John Hancock Center Observatory"
The 94th floor observatory also features a fairly new section called the Skywalk, billed as Chicago's highest open-air viewing deck a thousand feet above the Magnificent Mile. Unlike the former World Trade Center of New York, which had a rooftop observatory, you are still inside the Hancock. Still, it is a unique experience to be wind blown so high up in the air. For a few dollars extra, you can get a Sky Tours headset with audio commentary about what you are gazing at below.
The building does include attractions besides the observatory. There are restaurants like the posh Signature Room on the 95th floor (yes that is higher than the Observatory) and the popular Cheesecake Factory at the lower level. This sunken plaza area is a fun place to people watch in the summertime. There are a few stores as well as the Chicago Architectural Foundation. The building contains offices, parking, and condominiums as well.
Completed in 1970 and renovated in 1995, the John Hancock Center is one of the most recognized landmarks in Chicago. It was designed and engineered by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan of the architectural firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill, who has garnered plenty of awards and accolades for its innovative design scheme. The most distinguishing feature of this architectural icon is the "X" bracing that goes up the sides of the tower. It is said that condos whose views are partially blocked by the steel bracing members are the more prestigious.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 17, 2003
Hancock Building Observatory
875 North Michigan Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Attraction | "Sears Tower Skydeck"
Completed in 1973 and renovated in 1993, the Sears Tower was designed and engineered by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan of the architecture firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill, the same esteemed team that brought the John Hancock Center to Chicago's skyline. Conceptually, the plan of the Sears Tower consists of nine square structural tubes, the two tallest ones forming the observatory. Its aesthetic design value for the average person is fairly minimal except for its sheer mass and height, which is enough to make it an essential member of the Chicago skyline. In engineering circles it is quite a celebrated structural accomplishment.
The Sears Tower includes dining options like Mrs. Levy's Delicatessen, Dos Hermanos, and Mia Torre. The building contains stores and offices, but no residential levels. Its ground level plaza is usually windswept and barren when not crawling with people rushing to and from work on weekdays.
If you have the time and money to visit only one of the observatories, it is tough to choose one over the other. Queue up at the Sears Tower if you want to tell friends that you have been to the tallest sky deck in North America. Whether the views are either the best or second best in Chicago, they are definitely amazing and should not be missed by any visitor.
Willis Tower (Sears Tower)
233 South Wacker Drive
After greeting the two lions standing guard at its main Michigan Avenue entrance, you can see quite a variety of art, including its impressive Impressionist collection. There is usually a special exhibit going on, with some that will require a special entry ticket. Tuesday is still the day for free admissions, but the late day is now on Thursdays when the museum closes at 8pm. The weekend crowds can be stifling, hindering your enjoyment of the Picassos, Renoirs, and Rembrandts. You will need to check in any bags much larger than a camera tote for a dollar fee, or you can use one of the small coin-operated lockers (there is also a second coat check at the Columbus entrance in back).
Everyone may have their favorite artworks or artists, as there is a lot of variety at this large museum. I like to visit and re-visit the recreated Louis Sullivan-designed Chicago Stock Exchange room, the serene Asian Art room designed by architect Tadao Ando, the moody stained glass windows by Chagall, and, of course, Seurat's pointillism masterpiece "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte". Architectural exhibits are tucked away in the peculiar u-shaped gallery on the second floor next to pieces salvaged from notable buildings in Chicago. Check out the miniature Thorne rooms on the lower level for a change of pace.
A new entrance designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano is planned for the near future along Monroe Street. There is a restaurant and a cafeteria for a light bite. The busy gift shop has a fun selection of gifts. Have a seat on the steps in front of the Art Institute and enjoy one of the great people-watching spots in the city.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 17, 2003
Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Ave.
Chicago, Illinois 60603
The Beaux-Arts-style landmark, which calls itself the "Architectural Showplace for the Lively and Visual Arts," does live up to its billing as a cultural center. While I would not rate it as highly as the great Pompidou Centre in Paris, I do enjoy dropping in and seeing what is going on. There are many programs held throughout the year, ranging from classical concerts, theater, and dance to films, lectures, and art and photography exhibits. Most of these programs are free, great for visitors and locals alike.
Opening as the Chicago Public Library in 1897, the building was designed by the architectural firm of Shepley Rutan & Coolidge. It is interesting to take an elevator to one of the upper levels and walk down, passing through the building's many beautiful spaces. Tiffany lamps, ornate mosaics, inscriptions in 10 languages, and the names of great writers embellish the grand Preston Bradley Hall, topped by perhaps the world’s largest Tiffany dome. Another glorious set of interiors is the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Rotunda and Memorial Hall. A stunning glass dome, by the studio of Healy and Millet, caps the Rotunda; its floor is a unique combination of glass block embedded in a mosaic tile floor. The Memorial Hall features coffered ceilings, marble walls depicting Civil War motifs, and windows with great views of Grant Park.
Other grand spaces include the Italian Renaissance-influenced Sidney R. Yates Gallery and the Greek-themed Exhibit Hall, which was formerly the library's reading room. The Landmark Chicago Gallery, on the first floor, displays interesting black-and-white photos of old Chicago landmarks and building remnants.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications is located here, with an emphasis on old radio programs and local Chicago television personalities. There is a souvenir store, along with the Shop at the Cultural Center (with Chicago-themed gifts), elsewhere on the main level. The first floor also houses a small Corner Bakery outlet.
The Chicago Cultural Center is open every day except holidays, with surprisingly late hours during the weekdays.
Chicago Cultural Center
78 East Washington St
Chicago, Illinois 60601
+1 312 744 6630
The MCA''s permanent collection includes works by Alexander Calder, Sol LeWit, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, and Ed Paschke. While the permanent collection is interesting, it pales when compared to that of New York''s MOMA. I personally enjoy the temporary exhibits more, as there is always something fresh and unique on display. You can see architectural exhibits, full-scale sculptures and exhibition spaces, and video arts. Perhaps the display of emerging art trends is the whole point of a contemporary art museum.
Kleihues'' design is very dry and minimalist, which allows the art to sing. A high staircase fronts the main west facade, and in the evening the voids of the glass windows create an interesting contrast with the dark frame of the building. The skylit main atrium is four stories high and is a good orientation place. The most interesting element is the grand interior staircase that wraps around a almond-shaped space above a fish pool. If you do not want to climb the considerable main stairs, you can also enter via the ground floor entry, where you can run into the auditorium, classrooms, and lavatories.
Puck''s at the MCA is the name-brand cafe with pleasant views of the lake and sculpture garden when the weather permits al fresco dining. The MCA Store occupies two levels and has some interesting books and artistic collectibles for purchase. The MCA hosts "First Fridays", when the museum is open late the first Friday of every month. For a nightclub-like entry fee, you can get snacks from Puck''s, experience a guest band or performer, and see lots of artsy wannabees. Oh, and you can enjoy the latest art exhibit too.
The MCA is closed on Mondays but is free and open until 8pm on Tuesdays. As an added plus, the coat check is free (it is one dollar at the Art Institute). It has a prime location just a block east of the revered Water Tower landmark.
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60611
+1 312 280 2660
Attraction | "Adler Planetarium"
The Adler has two full-size planetarium theaters, with interesting programs that are a terrific way to introduce youngsters to astronomy. The exterior dome is 88 feet in diameter, and its accompanying interior projection dome is 68 feet in diameter. A projection device that looks like a weird elongated spaceship conducts the programs on the projection screen. I still remember going to the Adler as a little boy on school field trips and lying back in my seat for swirling images of the heavens above. The Sky Pavilion, which debuted in 1998, is an addition with a popular interactive theater called StarRider.
Collections at the Adler include ancient telescopes, meteorites, displays of our solar system, and space-themed artworks. The oldest scientific instrument in its collection is a 12th Century Persian astrolabe, a device that does a multitude of tasks like act as a compass as well as predict sunrise and sunset times. Kids may enjoy trying on some costumes based on historical garb.
The Doane Observatory, completed in 1977, houses a powerful telescope at the east end of the peninsula. If you are visiting the Planetarium, try and walk over to the ivy-covered pavilion for great views of the surrounding lakefront, even without the aid of a powerful telescope! Since the Adler juts out on a pier, the relatively isolated grassy areas that ring the outside of the Planetarium are gathering spots for passionate couples and other heavenly bodies.
The Infinity Gift Shop has a selection of space-themed gifts and trinkets. There are a few vending machines on the lower level with a few not-so-cheap snacks. In an attempt to keep up with the Joneses, the Adler Planetarium will be open late on the first Friday of every month, with the promotion nicknamed Far Out Fridays.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 23, 2003
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
1300 South Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Attraction | "Shedd Aquarium"
The John G. Shedd Aquarium opened in 1930, so it is one of the oldest public aquariums in the world. It was designed by the long-running architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White with a Greek Revival look in a stylistic reflection of the nearby Field Museum. The original octagonal building features a Doric portico, a low pyramidal skylight and white Georgian marble.
The architectural firm Lohan and Associates designed the vast four-level Oceanarium, which almost doubled the original building’s square footage. The layers of this modern addition seem to visually fan and flow into Lake Michigan from the original octagonal structure. This recreation of a Pacific Northwest environment debuted amidst great fanfare and controversy in 1991. Dolphins and beluga whales are the stars of the show here, but protesters still believe it is unfair for these creatures to flop about in such a restricted environment. An annual attendance of about two million people indicates that the protesters form a slim minority, whether their cause is worthy or not.
One of the summertime institutions here is Jazzin' at the Shedd, which features a jazz band on Thursday evenings for yuppies who want to enjoy a few snacks, drinks and minglings.
The Shedd is the most expensive museum in town, especially if you are paying for the separate entrance fee to the Oceanarium. If you still have money left over, stop in at the cafe and the shops.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 23, 2003
John G. Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Navy Pier was originally conceived as part of the famous Burnham Plan of 1909 for Chicago. Navy Pier opened in 1916 with ship docking facilities as well as public entertainment facilities. Since then, its 3000-foot length has been utilized as a military training base, a Chicago campus for the University of Illinois, as well a location for trade shows, festivals and concerts.
The new Navy Pier was designed and shaped by VOA Associates and Benjamin Thompson Associates. The walk through Navy Pier can get quite crowded, whether inside or out. Since the pier juts into Lake Michigan, you are surrounded by some spectacular views. Take a look around while you are dodging rollerbladers, kids with ice cream cones, and brisk lake winds.
Navy Pier now has diverse attractions like the Chicago Children's Museum, IMAX Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. The Skyline Stage is the site for summertime concerts, and the Festival Hall on the east end hosts a variety of public events and receptions. Kids and lovestruck couple will enjoy a slow ride on the large Ferris Wheel. You can still get dressed up before boarding a boat for a nice dinner cruise. Fireworks displays light up the summer nights, but not every summer night so check the schedule.
Besides the so-so food court, there are restaurants like Bubba Gump's, Riva, Charlie's Ale House, Joe's Be-Bop and a spinoff of the famous Billy Goat Tavern. Navy Pier actually has its own parking garage, but it is hard to imagine driving in this congestion. It is a healthy walk from downtown, and just walking through the pier is a long stroll as well. It is not a quiet place to be, but try and enjoy the fun along with the masses.
600 East Grand Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Attraction | "The Chicago School of Architecture"
One of the finest examples of the Chicago School of Architecture is the Carson Pirie Scott and Company flagship store (1899-1904), designed by the great Louis Sullivan. This department store at State and Madison was originally the Schlesinger and Mayer Store, and it was desirable to have sizeable picture windows to fashionably display the company merchandise. The large windows did the trick, along with panels that used Sullivan''s distinctively organic ornamentation.
The Reliance Building at State and Washington seemed to have even larger windows and impossibly skinny mullions separating them. The voids were starting to outsize the masses on the facades. Charles Atwood of D. H. Burnham and Company designed the building in 1895. This former office building was painstakingly renovated and became the Hotel Burnham in 1998. As a boutique hotel, the large windows are deliciously decorated with flashy drapery.
Other notable buildings include the acoustically marvelous Auditorium Building, the Rookery Building, with one of the great interior spaces in Chicago, and 35 East Wacker (formerly the Jewelers Building), which is capped by an attractive drum.
The Chicago Architectural Foundation runs the Archicenter (on South Michigan Avenue, across from the Art Institute), which is a good place to learn more about the architectural legacy of this period. There is a nice scale model of downtown Chicago buildings, and a decent souvenir shop.
Chicago School of Architecture
845 West Harrison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607
Attraction | "Great modern sculptures in Chicago"
We lead off with the Picasso sculpture, the fairest of them all at the northwest corner of Dearborn and Washington. This is probably the most beloved modern sculpture in Chicago, but this was not always the situation. It was unveiled in 1967 as the artpiece in the middle of the plaza of the Civic Center (now Daley Center) to decidedly mixed reviews amongst the generally conservative tastes of the locals. As with most great civic structures (take the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Michelangelo's David in Florence as prime examples), the tide of public opinion soon gravitated from negatively to overwhelmingly positive. The Picasso is a must see in the city, and it offers a lot of interesting vantage points to be seen. I like sneaking up on it from its left "shoulder" so you can see the silhouette of the head of this "woman". The 50-foot-tall sculpture is constructed from Cor-ten steel, the same material used in the Daley Center building. The modern plaza features a fountain and an eternal flame, but there is no question that the Picasso is the star of the show.
Across the street from the Picasso is the Miro sculpture, unfortunately sited in a niche of a plaza between two high-rises. Most people will be so mesmerized by the Picasso and not even notice the Miro, and that would be a shame. Only the sheer power of the design lets the Miro to be noticed at all. It is on the south side of Washington, just west of Dearborn.
Before heading south on Dearborn, take a slight detour to the northwest corner of Randolph and Clark to see the Dubuffet. This white mushroom-like sculpture is typical Dubuffet as it stands in front of the State of Illinois Center. There is just enough space for a person to walk through the sculpture.
Back on Dearborn, walk to the plaza of the Bank One Building to see the large mosaic by Marc Chagall. A metal canopy to partially protect it from the elements now tops the artwork. Walk around the colorful artwork, at the northwest corner of Dearborn and Monroe.
A little further south on Dearborn between Adams and Jackson is the unmistakable red Flamingo by Alexander Calder. Its curvy and bright red hue stands as a colorful counterpoint to Mies' darkly linear modern design of the Federal Plaza.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 10, 2003
The museum has occupied its current neo-classical building since 1921. The noted architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, completed this building after initial plans were started in 1912 by its predecessor firm, D. H. Burnham and Company. The museum was originally founded as part of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 to display a vast collection of anthropological and biological items. The museum admits to holding over twenty million specimens, hence its ongoing building expansion program.
The grand central hall of the museum, which can be reached via the north or south entrance, rises to a height of 76 feet. The unofficial mascot of today's Field Museum is Sue, the largest and best-preserved T-Rex skeleton to be unearthed. Next on the prominence list is the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit, with a few mummies and other finds. The central hall also holds a couple of captivating totem poles. Although a bit stiff, the colorful displays of animals and plants from around the world are fun to see for the kids.
Besides McDonald's and Corner Bakery, the museum actually has basement seating that seems to promote self-catering for families and school groups. There are quite a few vending machines, and I imagine you could pack your own picnic lunch if so desired.
The museum's store has a colorful assortment of items for sale.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 10, 2003
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605
The definitive experience is a visit to the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. It is fun to wander into the humid sanctuary to witness a lovely collection of living butterflies in an approximation of their natural environment. Over 50 species of butterflies are housed in this greenhouse. There is an interesting area with delicate butterfly chrysalides, which look like beautifully fine pieces of jewelry in their display.
Other displays include a Wilderness Walk through prairie environments, with full-scale mock-ups of animals and plants and piped-in sounds. Check out the various displays of living insects scurrying about safely behind glass displays, such as the ant farm and the water bugs. Kids will also enjoy the City Science and Water Lab displays. This latter exhibit includes what is basically a glorified sandbox, with water, sand, and instruments to create make-believe land and water topographies.
Cap off your visit at the Nature Museum Shop, which is small but has an amusing array of gifts and toys that are fun and educational as well. There is a cafe with light snacks and refreshments. The second floor has an outdoor patio from which you can look out at the surroundings, with large trees, ponds, and gardens.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a bit out of the way, as it is about three miles north of the downtown area. If you have a spot of time and want to reconnect with nature while in the urban jungle, the museum is worth a visit. The place definitely caters to kids, but it is fun for adults also.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 10, 2003
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 North Cannon Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60614
+1 773 755 5100
Attraction | "Buckingham Fountain and Grant Park"
Daniel Burnham was the visionary whose Burnham Plan of 1909 illustrated a plan for museums, parks and prominent landmarks along Lake Michigan. Grant Park was to be reserved as an open space for the general public instead of being greedily developed into a mishmash of industrial and commercial buildings. Now locals enjoy activities like softball, cycling, and rollerblading in the park.
Prominent buildings like the Art Institute, Chicago Cultural Center, and the three buildings of the Museum Campus face Grant Park. Its presence along the lakefront is a comforting relief from urban congestion and blandness.
Buckingham Fountain is the landmark and focal point of the design of the vast Grant Park. The area surrounding the fountain is designed like a casual French landscape garden, with fine gravel paths leading to the Beaus Arts monument. The fountain, designed by Edward H. Bennett, was built in 1927. The dynamic bronze sculptures of the fountain were the creations of sculptor Marcel Francois Loyau. Its grand sprays and displays of water mark the ongoing summertime period, as the fountain is turned off upon the onset of fall. Modern technology allows for dynamic and colorful light displays that blend in with the churning jets of water. A summertime stroll past the fountain is a must if you are visiting downtown. There are a few food and souvenir vendors in the immediate area if watching dancing waters makes you thirsty.
500 South Lake Shore Dr
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Attraction | "Millennium Park (Part 1)"
Perhaps the most anticipated element of the complex is the Jay Pritzker Music Pavilion, designed by Mr. Guggenheim Bilbao himself, architect Frank Gehry. He has one of the hottest hands in the world of architecture, and he shows it again with this gleaming structure featuring his trademark network of stainless steel panels. I have been privileged to watch this project slowly taking shape during its construction phase, and the final result is a welcome addition to the Chicago landscape. It may not be as exciting as the Guggenheim Bilbao, but this new band shell should still be appreciated as a nice derivative of Gehry’s original standard.
The pavilion looks like a giant metallic onion with its outer layers peeled off to reveal the beautiful state-of-the-art stage in its heart. The shells hovering above the stage have been compared to a headdress or silvery clouds. 4,000 red seats face the concert stage, backed with a Great Lawn that can hold another 7,000 people. A steel trellis that adds a sense of enclosure even though it is clearly an outdoor space tops the lawn. Speakers are attached to the trellis to spread the sound quality throughout the lawn area. Some have speculated that the trellis could eventually be hooded with a fabric roof for those not-so-nice days in the city, and such a dome may be an attractive result next to the grandiose Gehry pavilion.
Gehry also designed the BP Pedestrian Bridge. It connects Millennium Park with Daley Bicentennial Plaza by leaping over Columbus Drive, adding an extra connection to the lakefront. The bridge, Gehry’s first completed design of such a span, features similar stainless steel panels to act as an ensemble piece to the Pritzker Pavilion. The bridge is not a straight crossover, so it will frustrate those who like to go directly from Point A to Point B. It is more of a winding promenade path than a bridge, designed with several switchbacks that provide many opportunities to gaze at Gehry’s other creation from various angles. It is sculpturally serpentine and scaly, with imagery of a snake or the Mississippi River coming to mind. The bridge deck is composed of hardwood planks, a nice touch that should appeal to the many pedestrians who will utilize this structure.
(continued in Part 2)
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 28, 2004
222 N. Columbus Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60601
Attraction | "Millennium Park (Part 2)"
At Millennium Park the talk of the town is the new landmark sculpture called "Cloud Gate", although most people simply call it "the Bean" because it looks like a giant silvery jelly bean. This brilliant work was designed by Anish Kapoor, a London artist born in Bombay. His first work in the States has quickly become a favorite with the public, which is notoriously skeptical of anything new or original.
The stainless steel object is deceptively simple. At first glance it just looks like a big bean, but the fun begins as you approach it. The reflective convex surface becomes a giant funhouse mirror, so buildings across Michigan Avenue can now be viewed with a fresh perspective. Onlookers feel like part of the art as they see their reflections. The experience becomes even more intense once you walk beneath the sculpture through its "gate". The underside of the bean is more concave than one might expect so instead of a claustrophobic feeling, you feel liberated as you walk under here. The bizarre mirror effect is multiplied so everyone can see several reflections of themselves simultaneously. Play some Pink Floyd if you want to enhance this psychedelic experience. As marvelous as the enormous (66 feet long, 33 feet high, 42 feet wide, 110 tons) sculpture is already, it is to be fine-tuned a bit to remove some of the seams, which currently do not necessarily detract from the overall appearance. Once this is completed, this will be one really smooth bean. It will probably be quite a chore to maintain the sparkling surface of the sculpture.
The Crown Fountain is as far from typical as one can get. Conceived by Barcelona artist Jaume Plensa and designed with the local architecture firm Krueck and Sexton, this extraordinary project is virtually guaranteed to make any visitor smile.
The ensemble features two 50-foot-tall rectangular towers of glass block at either end of a black granite reflecting pool that acts as a wet plaza. On the inside surface of each of the towers, a face of a "typical" local is monumentally displayed. After the two video images face off for several minutes, they simultaneously "spit" a stream of water onto the plaza. Once these modern-day gargoyles are finished spewing water, the images disappear and cascades of water tumble down the towers as if an invisible bucket were dislodged from the top of a door. The cycle renews with another two portraits squaring off, and there are supposedly hundreds of these resident faces in the database. Kids and frisky adults enjoy frolicking in this urban water park. The glass towers are dramatically lit at night. Perhaps since this is the most "fun" part of Millennium Park, it will not be as critically acclaimed for its design. The Crown Fountain is public art that is as inclusive as it gets, and that is what should endear it to the hearts of Chicagoans.
(continued in Part 3)
Attraction | "Millennium Park (Part 3)"
Here are some Millennium Park attractions that may not be as high-profile but are worth a look nevertheless.
The Lurie Garden is still a work in progress, but its 2.5 acres are a peaceful place for a stroll. The variety of local and imported plantings is impressive. A miniature forest of trees acts as a hedge between the throngs of visitors and the delicate garden. In turn, the trees are safely fenced off from the crowds. The garden is bisected by a boardwalk and a little stream, but it sputters at its south end at Monroe Drive to look like a bad leak. Perhaps when it is fine-tuned the water will cascade over the edge to extend the presence of the park towards the Art Institute.
The Millennium Monument at Wrigley Square anchors the northwest corner of the site. It features a neoclassical curving colonnade of Doric columns that is reminiscent of a similar peristyle at this spot between 1917 and 1953. The peristyle cups a circular fountain that is quiet in comparison to its flamboyant cousin (the Plensa-designed multimedia Crown Fountain) and its famous granddaddy (the nearby Buckingham Fountain). Accept it for what it is, check out the list of donors engraved on the wall, and rest here if you are tired from enjoying the new urban playground of the city.
Just south of the new peristyle is the McCormick Tribune Plaza (keeping track of all the corporate sponsors?), which has a dual purpose depending on the season. In the summer it is utilized as an extension of the Park Grill Restaurant, which needs it for overflow alfresco crowds that frequently wait well over an hour for a table. In the winter the plaza is transformed into a popular ice skating rink.
The Joan W. and Irving B. Harris Theater for Music and Dance was designed by Thomas Beeby, the architect of the postmodern Harold Washington Library in the South Loop. This design is far less flamboyant, mainly in deference to the centerpiece Pritzker Pavilion. It is a minimalist building with a glassy front, though much of the 1,500 seat facility is built below ground. Climb the stairs to the outdoor deck for an alternative view of some parts of the park.
The Exelon Pavilions are basically glorified entrances to the underground parking garage, with one to be a visitor center. They employ solar panels for energy purposes. The two along Monroe Drive were designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and they anticipate his annex to the Art Institute that will be built across the street within a few years. The pair along Randolph Drive was designed by Thomas Beeby, complementing the Harris Theater (they are scheduled to be completed this August).
The Bicycle Station was designed by David Steele of the firm Muller and Muller. It includes lockers, showers and other facilities to encourage more locals to ride bicycles downtown.