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A people’s park of international
importance in downtown Chicago
By Renato Pesci, Built Environment Editor
17 July 2004: Millennium Park, Chicago’s newest park was first conceived in 1997 with the original mission of creating new parkland in Grant Park to transform the unsightly railroad tracks and parking lots that had long dotted the lake front in prime real estate in downtown Chicago. The park was officially opened on 16 July 2004.
The Millennium Park project has become one of the most important millennium projects in the world. With an unprecedented combination of architecture, monumental sculpture and landscape design, the 24.5 acre Millennium Park includes the artistry of an unprecedented collection of world-renowned artists, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers including Frank Gehry, Anish Kapoor, Jaume Plensa and Kathryn Gustafson.
Millennium Park was described by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley as the crowning achievement of the vision set forth by the original founders of Chicago in 1837. “The city's motto, ‘Urbs In Horto’ or ‘City in a Garden’ has never rung truer. Today's Millennium Park marks the Millennium for the ages and leaves Chicago with a marvelous venue to be enjoyed and cherished for generations to come,” the Mayor said.
The Millennium Park’s most remarkable features include the Jay Pritzker Pavillion by the Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry, the Crown Fountain by the Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa and the Kappor Sculpture by the British artist Anish Kapoor.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind in the United States visible from Michigan Avenue and beyond. The pavilion stands 120-feet high, with a billowing ‘headdress’ of stainless steel ribbons that frame the proscenium opening, connecting to an overhead trellis of crisscrossing steel pipes that define the lawn seating area. The Pavilion has 4,000 fixed seats and capacity for an additional 7,000 people on the lawn.
The Pavilion is named in memory of Chicago business leader Jay Pritzker, who with his wife Cindy, established the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1979. Ten years later, Frank Gehry was the 1989 Pritzker Prize Laureate.
Designed by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain features two 50-foot high glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers are activated with changing video images and lights, and water cascades from the top of each.
Anchoring the southwest corner of Millennium Park at Michigan Avenue and Monroe Streets, the Crown Fountain is a major addition to the Chicago’s world-renowned public art collection. Inspired by the people of Chicago whose faces appear on the glass towers’ changing video images, this site-specific work creates both a unique meeting point and a dynamic space for silent reflection. Utilizing water, light, and glass, Plensa has created a bold statement that is sure to stimulate passers-by and invite them to enter and experience Millennium Park.
Kapoor Sculpture on SBC Plaza
A major feature of Millennium Park is the 110-ton elliptical sculpture Cloud Gate designed by the British artist Anish Kapoor, one of the most prolific and respected sculptors in the world.
The sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly-polished stainless steel plates that create an elliptically-arched, highly reflective work with Chicago’s skyline and Millennium Park itself as a dramatic backdrop. Visitors will be able to fully experience the majestic nature of the work by literally walking through and around, as it was designed for public interaction. Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest in the world, measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high.