Millennium Park (Part 3)

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by billmoy on July 28, 2004

(continued from Part 2)

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.

Millennium Park
222 N. Columbus Drive
Chicago, Illinois, 60601
(312) 861-9503

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