Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chicago Part 7 of 8 - Millennium Park

From Wiki
Millennium Park is a public park located in the Loop community area of Chicago in Illinois, USA. It is a prominent civic center near the city's Lake Michigan shoreline that covers a 24.5-acre (9.9 ha) section of northwestern Grant Park. The area was previously occupied by parkland, Illinois Central rail yards and parking lots.  The park, which is bounded by Michigan Avenue, Randolph Street, Columbus Drive and East Monroe Drive, features a variety of public art. As of 2009, Millennium Park trailed only Navy Pier as a Chicago tourist attraction.

Planning of the park began in October 1997. Construction began in October 1998, and Millennium Park was opened in a ceremony on July 16, 2004, four years behind schedule. The three-day opening celebrations were attended by some 300,000 people and included an inaugural concert by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus. The park has received awards for its accessibility and green design.  Millennium Park has free admission, and features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden and other attractions. The park is connected by the BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Nichols Bridgeway to other parts of Grant Park. Because the park sits atop a parking garage and the commuter rail Millennium Station, it is considered the world's largest rooftop garden.

Millennium Park is considered to be the city's most important project since the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and it far exceeded its originally proposed budget of $150 million. The final cost of $475 million was borne by Chicago taxpayers and private donors. The city paid $270 million; private donors paid the rest, and assumed roughly half of the financial responsibility for the cost overruns.  The construction delays and cost overruns were attributed to poor planning, many design changes, and cronyism. Many critics have praised the completed park.

The Bean
The AT&T Plaza is a public space that hosts the Cloud Gate sculpture.  The plaza opened in July 2004 with the unveiling of the sculpture during the grand opening weekend of the park. Ameritech donated $3 million for the naming right for the plaza, but it was SBC Plaza when the park opened, as a merger had changed the company name to SBC Communications.  The 2005 merger of SBC and AT&T led to the present name.

The sculpture and the AT&T Plaza are located on top of Park Grill, between the Chase Promenade and McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. The plaza has become a place to view the McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. During the holiday season, the plaza hosts Christmas caroling.

Cloud Gate is a three-story steel sculpture that has been dubbed "The Bean" by Chicagoans, because of its legume-like shape. The sculpture is the first public artwork in the United States by world-renowned artist Anish Kapoor. The privately-funded piece cost $23 million, considerably more than the original estimate of $6 million. Composed of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly-polished exterior has no visible seams. It is 33 feet by 66 feet by 42 feet (10 m × 20 m × 13 m) and weighs 110 short tons (100 t; 98 long tons).

After Kapoor's design for the sculpture was selected during a design competition, numerous technological concerns regarding the design's construction and assembly arose, in addition to concerns regarding the sculpture's upkeep and maintenance.  Experts were consulted, some of whom believed the design could not be implemented.   Eventually, a feasible method was found, but the sculpture's construction fell behind schedule. Cloud Gate was unveiled in an incomplete form during the Millennium Park grand opening celebration, as the grid of welds around each metal panel was still visible.  The sculpture was concealed again while it was completed; in early 2005, workers polished out the seams.  Cloud Gate was formally dedicated on May 15, 2006, and it has since gained considerable popularity, both domestically and internationally.

Cloud Gate is a reflective steel sculpture that is inspired by liquid mercury; the sculpture's surface reflects and distorts the city's skyline.  The curved, mirror-like surface of the sculpture provides striking reflections of visitors, the city skyline (particularly the historic Michigan Avenue "streetwall") and the sky.  Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate's 12-foot (3.7 m) high arch. On the underside is the "omphalos" (Greek for "navel"), a concave chamber that warps and multiplies reflections. The sculpture builds upon many of Kapoor's artistic themes and is popular with tourists as a photo-taking opportunity for its unique reflective properties.

Some clever person formed a dog/lion out of snow!
Cloud Gate, aka, The Bean - this was amazing!
View from the Park
The Bean - notice the snow and reflections
Kat and I taking pictures against the Bean
The boys found a snow pile at Millennium Park

Visiting Millennium Park was recommendation by a friend.  At the time, it seemed a little lame, but I'm sure glad we came to visit.  As it turns out, I didn't take nearly enough pictures while we were here.  We had just gotten off the train and wondered over.  The boys were full of energy and bouncing around.  I kept yelling at them to stay out of the snow and stay warm and dry. We didn't take the time to walk under the Bean's arch so we missed the "belly button" - next trip!

From reading the wiki entry, this park has only been here a few years but highly popular.  A great place to come and visit - the place exudes positive energy.

Part 8 here


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