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    July 13, 2004

    LETTER FROM CHICAGO

    A Prized Project, a Mayor and Persistent Criticism

    By STEPHEN KINZER


    A music pavilion designed by Frank Gehry is a centerpiece of the long-awaited Millennium Park in Chicago.

    CHICAGO

    Even in a city with a worldwide reputation for innovative urban design, the opening this month of a spectacular new park and performance center near Lake Michigan promises to be a huge event.

    The site, Millennium Park, is opening four years late and at three times the original budget, but few here are complaining. The park boasts an outdoor music pavilion designed by Frank Gehry, complete with his signature swirls of shiny metal; an underground theater with 1,500 seats; elaborate gardens with 250 varieties of plants; and other attractions that include an ice skating rink and a shower room for bicyclists.

    This will not be a park with large meadows, groves or other spaces for quiet contemplation. Among its major features are two extraordinary art objects. One is a 110-ton polished-steel sculpture by the British artist Anish Kapoor. The other, by the Spaniard Jaume Plensa, will be centered on two 50-foot-high towers onto which close-up photographs that have been taken of Chicagoans will be projected while water streams over them.

    This project is a milestone for Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has made the physical reconstruction of Chicago a priority. The 24.5 acres on which Millennium Park has arisen were for years an unsightly railroad yard. Generations of city planners wrestled with how to turn it into a civic space. Mr. Daley embraced this challenge, and despite mounting costs and missed deadlines, he insisted that when Millennium Park was completed, the city would have a new downtown treasure.

    It is opening at a time when the mayor also seems to be making progress toward resolving some of the city's most intractable problems. The murder rate has begun to drop, and last month Mr. Daley announced a sweeping plan to build 100 schools before the end of the decade.

    But although Millennium Park may well be remembered as one of Mr. Daley's great achievements, this is not a moment of unalloyed pride for the mayor, who is under intensifying criticism for what some say is a pattern of corruption in and around his administration.

    Last week, The Chicago Tribune ran a front-page article reporting that the company chosen to clean up after a recent city-sponsored food festival had submitted an inflated bid, but appeared to have won the contract because it donated tens of thousands of dollars to a political committee that supports Mr. Daley.

    Reports like these appear here with deadening regularity. Last month, a former construction contractor told The Tribune that he bribed city officials in exchange for sewer contracts. Other companies connected to the mayor through friendship or campaign contributions have been accused of making inflated profits on contracts for projects like street paving and newsstands.

    "No one is going to cheat the city and no one is going to steal from the city," Mr. Daley declared after one recent round of accusations against his administration. "I hope you're not saying that me or anybody around me is for corruption. That is unfair."

    Mr. Daley, who declined to be interviewed, has not been accused of personally receiving money from any of these deals. Since he prides himself on hands-on management, however, they have cast a shadow over his administration and threaten to take some of the luster off the party that the city will give this weekend to celebrate the park's opening.

    The park is the latest of the grand architectural statements for which Chicago is renowned. This city was the birthplace of the modern steel-framed skyscraper, and in 1893 it built the famous neo-Classical "white city" as part of the World's Columbian Exposition. Later it provided a palette for the talents of world-shaking architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

    Under the mayor's original plan, the park was to cost $150 million and be completed in 2000. The schedule stretched out as the project became more ambitious, and the cost reached $475 million. About half the money came from donors, many of whom paid handsomely to see their family or corporate names attached to the park. Among the main installations are Bank One Promenade, SBC Plaza, McCormick Tribune Plaza, the BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The names of more than 80 individuals, corporations and foundations who donated at least $1 million are to be carved onto three granite slabs.

    "They like to make a difference, these people who have megamoney," said John H. Bryan, a local businessman who led the fund-raising. "They want to think that 50 years from now, their grandchildren will come back and say, 'Grandfather was somebody.' "

    Since taking office in 1989, Mayor Daley has directed large development projects like Navy Pier, which he transformed from an eyesore into a glittering complex of theaters and family attractions. He has also worked to beautify neighborhoods with flower gardens and wrought-iron fences.

    The mayor has little patience with those who do not share his vision. Last year he tired of the debate over what to do with a small lakefront airstrip called Meigs Field and ordered the field bulldozed in the middle of the night. He also encouraged the transformation of Maxwell Street, a historic center for peddlers and street musicians, into a shiny cluster of college dormitories, chain stores and upscale condominiums.

    "Maxwell Street was something beautiful and intrinsic to Chicago, but it wasn't fancy or upscale, so Daley didn't have eyes to see it," said Steve Balkin, a professor of economics at Roosevelt University.

    By promoting Millennium Park so vigorously, Mayor Daley has probably secured his position among the city's great builders.

    "It's really hard to say now whether people here will ultimately come to love this park," said John O. Norquist, a former mayor of Milwaukee who is president of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Chicago. "What's more broadly important is what this shows about Daley's commitment to the urban idea. He has become increasingly good at finding urban policies that add value to a city, and he's held in high esteem for that."

    Mr. Norquist has experience with scandals, having faced a sexual harassment lawsuit during his last term as mayor. Asked about the park opening against the backdrop of accusations against the Daley administration, he replied, "If you've got something happening that you don't want attention to be focused on, it's nice to have something good happening at the same time."

    How much taint the mayor carries from the scandals that are lapping at his doorstep could depend on how successful the local United States attorney, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is in his grand jury investigations into corruption here. Mr. Fitzgerald is treading on ground that Chicago prosecutors have long avoided, and more than a few politicians are hoping that whoever wins November's presidential election will replace him with someone less zealous.

    In recent weeks, the local press has been outspoken in its criticism of Mayor Daley. The Tribune published an editorial calling Chicago "one of the most corrupt cities in America, if not the most corrupt city in America." The Sun-Times asserted that "his responses to a string of scandals have failed to convince anyone of anything except his sensitivity to character issues and charges of mob influence."

    The July edition of Chicago magazine carries a lengthy report on "controversies that have rattled City Hall - and enriched the mayor's friends and supporters."

    Richard Simpson, a former Chicago alderman who teaches political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said political corruption had been an almost unbroken tradition in Chicago since the 1860's, including the two decades the mayor's legendary father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, was in office.

    "To list all the scandals he's faced would be a book-length project,'' Mr. Simpson said of the younger Mayor Daley. "Each time there's a new one, he makes a little change to the ethics ordinance or fires someone. His theory is that there are only a few rotten apples, but the real truth is that the barrel is rotten, and he's not ready to replace the barrel."


    The park features an interactive fountain designed by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


    Show Time for the Windy City's New Class Act

    Sunday, July 11, 2004; Page P02


    The Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, above, hosts free musical performances.

    RESEARCH QUESTION: On Friday, Chicago adds a new park to its front yard, on 24 1/2 acres stretched between downtown and Lake Michigan. Now that Millennium Park -- a cross between a sculpture garden and a performing arts complex with some open space and athletic facilities thrown in -- is complete, we wondered: Is it worth adding the park to already-jam-packed itineraries?

    METHODOLOGY: We recently toured the park with project director Edward K. Uhlir as workers frantically soldered, wired, planted, dry-walled, floored and topped off its numerous buildings and artworks. We also attended performances and exhibitions at the few park facilities already open.

    RESULTS: Obviously "millennium" is a misnomer, unless the term is used to mean "took centuries to complete." (The park was originally scheduled to open in 2000.) As it turns out, "park" is something of a misnomer as well. The place owes more to the Chicago tradition of hosting world's fairs than to any time-honored notion of the park as a place for sedate recreation. If you want "Sunday in the Park With George," you'll have to cross the street to the Art Institute of Chicago and visit it there.

    "The park is a place to come to see great architecture and art," says Uhlir, acknowledging that some of it appears in unlikely places, like the pair of elevator structures bearing the design signature of famed architect Renzo Piano.

    In a city as famously self-regarding as Chicago (Windy City refers not to the weather but to the local penchant for bragging), it's fitting that much of the park's art gives patrons an opportunity to admire themselves. "Cloud Gate," a stainless-steel sculpture by Anish Kapoor that's shaped like a kidney and is already known as "The Bean," reflects the rest of the park and nearby Beaux-Arts buildings -- as well as everyone who walks up to it. And Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain -- a pair of glass block towers -- features a display of the faces of 1,000 Chicagoans, an ever-changing array of contemporary gargoyles complete with water jets spouting from videotaped mouths.

    South of "The Bean" sits the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Frank Gehry's stainless-steel home for free outdoor concerts. The 4,000-seat venue, with its hulking shell, bristling cantilevers and airy trellis, looks variously like a plane crash, the tousled hair of an inspired conductor and an immense slingshot -- but nothing can be said against its acoustics or sightlines. The Great Lawn behind the seats is slightly elevated for the benefit of groundlings. Gehry also designed the spectacular foot bridge that snakes from the pavilion east toward Lake Michigan like the tail of a dragon armored in beaten pewter.

    The Harris Theater for Music and Dance, open since midwinter, is home to a dozen local performance troupes, including the internationally renowned Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Though the facility itself is a bit off-putting -- a featureless oblong box whose orchestra seats are three stories below street level -- the performance space is magnificent, with flawless acoustics and no bad seats.

    Millennium Park does include actual parkland, green space wrested from abandoned railroad yards. The Lurie Garden, designed by landscape architects Kathryn Gustafson, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel, is enclosed on two sides by thick hedges to foster contemplation. Urban athletes can rent bikes or securely store their own at a center equipped with lockers and showers. An ice rink in "The Bean's" shadow now appears in its summer incarnation as the outdoor seating area of the Park Grill, whose decor suggests the cafes in Copenhagen's Tivoli -- which makes sense, because Tivoli is a garden just like Millennium is a park.

    The neighboring Park Cafe offers sandwiches and chips, and there are a range of eateries across Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street at the park's periphery.

    CONCLUSION: If you envision a park as nature protected from human intervention, Millennium Park will be something of a shock. But for lovers of the performing arts, the park's theater and pavilion should be a destination like the Santa Fe Opera -- only open year-round and with ultra-modern art and architecture to stare at in lieu of mountains. Families will find kids' activities, but if time is short and they have to choose, Navy Pier's Ferris wheel, children's museum and street performers are more likely to appeal.

    -- Kelly Kleiman

    Admission to the park and pavilion is free; there's a fee for Harris Theater events. Subway/El stops: Washington/State on the Red Line; Randolph/State on the Brown, Green and Orange lines; Washington/ Dearborn on the Blue Line. Any Michigan Avenue bus will drop you at the park entrance. Details: www.chicago.il.org .

    © 2004 The Washington Post Company


    http://www.pbcchicago.com/subhtml/millennium_park.asp

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    I have to say, I love this work. But I wonder about the inspiration...
    perhaps:

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    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    When I go to Chicago on thursday this is the first place I will visit. 8) hmm...

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    July 15, 2004

    NATURE

    Softening a City With Grit and Grass

    By ANNE RAVER


    ALL-AMERICAN Kathryn Gustafson landscaped the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago.

    Slide Show: Gustafson's Creations

    CHICAGO

    KATHRYN GUSTAFSON, the American-born landscape architect known for her sculptured parks and lively waterworks, was embraced by France, Britain and the Netherlands before her native country recognized her bold, minimalist sensibility.

    That changed when she designed the Arthur Ross Terrace, with its exquisite interplay of lights and fountains, behind the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 2000. Two years later, she won the competition for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, which opened last week in London.

    Her newest creation is a 2.5-acre garden, which opens tomorrow in Millennium Park, Chicago's $475 million celebration of design. It also includes a music pavilion by Frank Gehry, sculpture by Anish Kapoor and a Jaume Plensa interactive fountain.

    Last week, I passed beneath Mr. Kapoor's gleaming stainless steel ellipsis, which forms a grand entrance to the park, and stood agog at the Gehry pavilion. Its maw of curling steel looks like a celestial gateway to another universe. I had to remind myself this 25-acre park park is a roof garden over a parking garage and commuter rail lines. It runs along Michigan Avenue, just north of the Art Institute and Grant Park and is a stone's throw from Lake Michigan.

    Ms. Gustafson's contribution, a collaboration with Piet Oudolf, the Dutch master of perennials, and Robert Israel, the lighting and set designer, is called the Lurie Garden, after its donor, Ann Lurie. It is tucked behind a soft wall of evergreens at the south end of the music pavilion and Mr. Gehry's arching steel trellis, which spans a great oval lawn, where 7,000 people can sit and enjoy a performance. This trellis not only frames the sky but also leads the eye toward the Lurie Garden's great green hedge — and what secrets may lie behind it.

    Ms. Gustafson first envisioned this hedge as powerful shoulders supporting the head of the Gehry pavilion. It is a hedgerow, really — a collection of yew, cedar, beech and hornbeam. But it has years to grow before it reaches the top of the 15-foot steel frame, which will guide pruners to clip its sides and top in a smooth line.

    The frame, intended to support branches laden with snow, is a monumental sculpture in itself. Quite capable of standing up to Mr. Gehry's animated pavilion, it curves around the garden like muscular arms.

    Through the openings in it I could reach a wide boardwalk that runs along a five-foot-wide canal flanked by a limestone wall. The wall, intentionally rough, is a reference to the sea wall that once held back the lake, and the boardwalk, or seam, as Ms. Gustafson calls it, harks back to the first wooden boardwalks built over the swampy shore that was to become Chicago. Jets enliven the water, and a wide step invites visitors to sit down, take their shoes off and dangle their feet in the cool water.

    Ms. Gustafson, whose landscapes are rooted in their geography and cultural history, has layered this garden with Chicago's past — from those first boardwalks over the mud to the railroad tracks still visible from Monroe Street and the skyscrapers that rose above me as I climbed the gentle slope of a bright prairie. Newly planted coneflowers, little bluestem and hundreds of other perennials and grasses were widely spaced in blocks and swirls to form a patchwork of contrasting textures and colors.

    To the east, across the boardwalk and above the limestone walk, lies a darker, cooler world of ferns, angelicas, joe-pye weed and other moisture-loving plants. Ms. Gustafson envisioned the two planes — light and dark — as the muscular torso of her shoulder garden.

    This garden will open a week after Ms. Gustafson's Diana fountain opened in Hyde Park in London, and children raced to splash in its rushing waters.

    "The TV cameramen got frustrated because the children all stripped off their clothes, and they couldn't photograph them," Ms. Gustafson said by cellphone while on a train to Paris.

    The children did not have to know the metaphor Ms. Gustafson was working with there — that the changing waters, from effervescent bubbles to roiling cascade and a final quiet pool, were meant to reflect Diana's personality. "She reached out to people," Ms. Gustafson said. "She was very inclusive." The fountain is meant to be interactive, so no child could resist.

    Ms. Gustafson's Chicago project resulted from an international competition more than three years ago, with entries from the French designer Louis Benech, Studio on Site of Tokyo and top American designers like Dan Kiley, George Hargreaves, Jeffrey Mendoza and Michael Van Valkenburgh.

    "I thought her scheme far superior to the others," said Edward Uhlir, an architect and urban planner, who is the Millennium Park project director. "It was much more contemporary, and bold."

    The jury was struck by the design's sculptured contours, its references to Chicago's history and Mr. Oudolf's slides of his gardens in the Netherlands.

    "They were exquisitely beautiful and elegant in their composition and plant material," Mr. Uhlir said. "Nurserymen here have never seen some of those plants."

    The garden's design also allows a great flow of pedestrians along wide walkways outside the intimate interior rooms. "When the pavilion empties out those people toward the garden, we don't want them traipsing past thousands of rare and unusual plants," Ms. Gustafson said, practically. "Their main object is to get back to their cars."

    The wide promenade is graced, however, by wooden platforms, which invite sitting and people-watching. A whimsical topiary of rumpled boxwood and patches of yew that looks about to escape zigzags the length of the promenade. This is Bob's Hedge, named after Mr. Israel, who wanted to evoke the Greek myth of a nymph who escapes Apollo's seductions by turning into a laurel tree.

    While some may rush past Bob's Hedge for their cars, others may linger in the starry night. They can wander into the garden through openings suddenly appearing in the seemingly inpenetrable hedge.

    "It's like the secret garden," Ms. Gustafson said. "You get a key and go through."

    It was Mr. Israel, she said, who taught her Seattle-based firm, Gustafson, Guthrie & Nichol, how to offer choices, so that each decision builds the sense of a journey. Ms. Gustafson's gardens are contextual — rooted in their history — but also designed to engage those who discover them.

    The promenade she designed for Seattle's new opera house is a shimmering sheet of water over stone pavers. "In the evening, operagoers in their suits are amazed they can walk on water," Ms. Gustafson said.

    The water reflects scrims of colored light at night and blue sky during the day. "Water brings people together," she said. "And urban plazas are often empty. Water makes people feel they are occupied." (Think about how the sound of water can keep you company in an empty space.) Similarly, the old rule goes, water can make a plaza full of people feel empty.

    The Seattle Civic Center, a three block complex that starts with Justice Center Plaza and descends through City Hall and on down a steep hill that plummets toward Elliott Bay, uses water as the connector. The Justice Center portion features a vertical yellow panel above a long rectangular pool with a yellow bottom. "That's the sun rising in the east," Ms. Gustafson said.

    And it is also the city's symbolic headwaters. "There were a number of streams coming out of that hill and connecting to the bay," said Ms. Gustafson, who researches the geography of every site.

    "When you're out in a boat and look back, Seattle builds up like an Italian hillside," she said. "So we used materials that have the same color and sheen as the bay."

    Ms. Gustafson, 53, grew up in the high desert plateau of Yakima, in the south-central part of Washington State. "You can see its basic bone structure," she said. "Yakima gave me a sense of scale. And it taught me not to fear emptiness. I don't need to be cradled in a corner."

    She studied design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and spent the 1970's designing clothes in New York and Paris, where she studied landscape architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure du Paysage at Versailles.

    She opened her own office in Paris in 1980 and landscaped the south facade of the Museum of Science and Industry in the Parc de la Villette there. She also sculptured parks out of earth excavations, like one outside Paris, where a reservoir was dug, or at the gateway to Marseilles, where a mountain of dirt was left over after digging a tunnel. In 1992, she sculptured the campuses for Shell Petroleum and Exxon near Paris.

    People often compare her flowing landscapes to drapery. Fashion taught her to study the body and how it moves through space. "And different shapes of the body relate to shapes of the land," she said.

    At the moment, her London office, Gustafson-Porter, is designing the Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, as a symbol of healing. "We have archaeologists with us who are digging through layers of civilization," Ms. Gustafson said. The garden will show those layers, exploring the bonds people have had through the ages with agriculture and the land.

    The greatest gift of a garden, though, is how its meaning changes with the people who walk down its paths. At the Lurie Garden, you can dangle your feet in the canal and think about those springs of early Chicago — or simply delight in the feel of the cool water. And when you climb up the tilted light plane, full of bright perennials, it may be possible to imagine the future. Or at least catch a great view of what Carl Sandburg called the city of big shoulders.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    USA Today
    July 15, 2004

    Donors' cash turns city green

    By Debbie Howlett, USA TODAY


    Pritzker Pavilion, an amphitheater designed by architect Frank Gehry, is the centerpiece of Chicago's Millennium Park.

    Flash: A New Millennium

    CHICAGO — When Millennium Park is dedicated this weekend, the ceremony will celebrate a landmark civic achievement and a 15-year quest by Mayor Richard Daley to "green" this industrial metropolis.

    It will also spotlight one of the most ambitious urban parks built by an American city in two or three generations.

    "Nobody has ever done anything as grandiose in such a restricted space," says Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land. "Everybody in the nation is pointing at Chicago as the city that understands the role of green space in urban development," Harnik says. "Everybody." (Related photos: A new Millennium)

    At a mere 24.5 acres — a tiny share of the 686,000 acres of parkland in the nation's 50 largest cities — Millennium Park is the next big thing in outdoor public space.

    An inspiration for others

    Never before, experts say, has a city relied so heavily on private and corporate donors to cover so much of the cost of a public park — $205 million out of a total $475 million. And no city has so easily surrendered 18 blocks of prime downtown real estate that could have reaped billions in redevelopment and taxes.

    Other cities have taken note:

    Irvine, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles, wants to partner with state colleges and private donors to create the "Orange County Great Park" from 4,700 acres of the closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

    Denver wants downtown businesses to raise money to rehabilitate a 12-acre park that has become a haven for drug dealers and the homeless.

    St. Louis raised $90 million from donors to spruce up midtown Forest Park.

    Boston officials visited Chicago this year for ideas on building a park over the pit left by the "Big Dig" highway construction project.

    Chris Walker, a researcher at the Urban Institute who studies community development, says cities are starting to realize the tremendous contribution that urban parks make to the quality of life. Beyond recreation space, parks are "civic glue," Walker says. They make surrounding areas more desirable and more valuable.

    Greenery in the city

    Millennium Park is an indication of how seriously Daley takes the city's official motto, Urbs in Horto (City in a Garden).

    During his 15 years as mayor, Daley has built a garden atop City Hall, rerouted Lake Shore Drive to create a grassy museum campus and planted 400,000 trees around the city. In 1998, he took a keen interest in the Millennium Park project.

    The park was supposed to be finished four years ago — hence the name — on a much smaller scale and for a third of the final cost. The original idea was to cover an open area along Michigan Avenue where commuter trains run next to an underground parking garage.

    "It would have just been greenery," Daley says. "I love greenery, (but) the space means more to the city than that."

    He persuaded corporations and philanthropists to help finance a far grander vision.

    The finished park, located between the downtown Loop and the shore of Lake Michigan, includes an outdoor concert stage, an underground theater, a 3-acre perennial garden, a whimsical fountain by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, public sculpture by Indian-British artist Anish Kapoor and an outdoor ice-skating rink.

    "It's a unique endeavor in the world," the mayor says. "A lesson in using public space."

    Even critics of the project marvel at the results.

    "It's a monumental architectural achievement," says Patricia Nolan of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, a local tax watchdog organization that opposed the park and called it a boondoggle. "Nobody can argue with how it turned out."

    $52 million pavilion

    At the heart of the park is the outdoor concert pavilion, which cost $52 million, including $15 million to hire the architect, the internationally acclaimed Frank Gehry.

    Daley predicts that the pavilion will become as much a Chicago icon as the Sears Tower or the Picasso sculpture near City Hall. But he says it could not have been built with tax money. "Government can't do that," he says. "It gets too controversial."

    That's when the Pritzkers, the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, stepped up with a $15 million donation.The pavilion is named for family patriarch Jay Pritzker.

    The Pritzkers' commitment spurred other donors. Virtually every feature of the park is named for a prominent Chicagoan or corporation: Pritzker Pavilion, SBC Plaza, Bank One Promenade, Crown Fountain, Wrigley Square, Lurie Garden.

    "The money we spent is not money cities spend," says John Bryan, the retired chairman of Sara Lee who led the corporate fundraising effort. "This park is at a standard that couldn't be met without private money. We asked the best artists and designers in the world to come in and do their best. We didn't cost-benefit any of this or run it through a process."

    Despite the corporate and philanthropic largess, it was not enough to build the park.

    The city plans to use revenue from the underground parking lots to pay off $180 million in loans.

    The city also took $95 million from its Tax Increment Financing Fund, revenue that is set aside to help spur development of economically depressed areas.

    Nolan says that money from the fund is essentially tax dollars and that Daley broke his promise by dipping into the fund.

    "Daley is big into these high-profile, grandiose projects downtown that make the city look good," Nolan says. "We are more interested in neighborhood parks."

    © Copyright 2004 USA TODAY

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    July 18, 2004

    Big Shoulders, Big Donors, Big Art

    By FRED A. BERNSTEIN

    Slide Show: Chicago's Supersized Sculpture Garden

    CHICAGO's 24.5-acre Millennium Park, opening this week, is a sculpture garden on steroids, filled with large, challenging works chosen by wealthy donors. But to the city's mayor, Richard M. Daley, long a champion of the "green roof" — a way of using plants to insulate buildings — the new park is precisely that: a big green roof. When Mr. Daley took office 15 years ago, the site, north of the Art Institute and east of Michigan Avenue, contained old railroad tracks and gravel parking lots. He proposed building subterranean parking garages, which would generate revenue to help pay for a new park at street level. Amenities like a skating rink and restaurant will make the park "useful all year," the mayor said in a phone interview last week. Mr. Daley, who styles himself a populist and an environmentalist, also wanted a band shell (for the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus's free summer concerts) and a bike garage (where pedalers can shower on their way to work). "If you just did a lawn," the mayor said, "it wouldn't have been much of a gift to the city."

    In 1998, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill produced a plan for a park, then expected to cost about $150 million. The park that opens this week cost $475 million. What happened was that John H. Bryan, the retired chairman of Sara Lee and now a nonpareil arts fund-raiser, decided that Skidmore's proposal wasn't bold enough.

    Mr. Bryan, his ambitions intersecting with the mayor's, raised more than $200 million from 91 donors, whose money talked when it came to choosing artists. The Crown family — Henry Crown was the largest shareholder of General Dynamics — chose Jaume Plensa to design a fountain, and Cindy Pritzker — widow of the Hyatt Hotel mogul Jay Pritzker — convinced her friend Frank Gehry to design the band shell. Mr. Gehry said he had no problem with the city's moneyed elite selecting art for a public park. "The Medicis," he said, "did the same thing." Mayor Daley said that the investment in the park (including more than $200 million in public money) will increase the value of downtown real estate — though he added that he doesn't believe any of the park's donors stand to profit directly.

    Each of the improvements — including Mr. Gehry's band shell and a 110-ton stainless steel sculpture by Anish Kapoor — required changes to the caissons supporting the park, adding costs and delaying completion by years.

    Running the project was the longtime Chicago Park District architect, Edward Uhlir, who did everything he could to hide the fact that the park is really a roof (even bringing in Renzo Piano to design sleek elevator pavilions in its corners). Still, the underground world — with more than 4,000 parking spaces — intrudes on the park in unexpected ways. Opening an unmarked door in the vast subterranean garage, in a last-ditch effort to find his car, one visitor found himself face to face with Mr. Gehry's band shell. And kitchen workers from the Park Grill, which sits beneath the Kapoor, take cigarette breaks by a door that faces the Plensa fountain.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    Hello Guys!! I was in Chicago this weekend and went to check out the Millenium Park while there. I took a bunch of photos that I will show you soon!

    Chicago is an amazing city and it is worth to check it out! Millenium Park Rocks!!!

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    Millennium Park
    Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion















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    Millennium Park
    Anish Kapoor’s "Cloud Gate" or "The Bean"








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    Millennium Park
    Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain










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    Millennium Park
    Frank Gehry’s Foot bridge













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    Millennium Park
    Gustafson, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel’s The Lurie Garden







  14. #14
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Millennium Park Night Shots:









  15. #15
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    I was there this week and have some pictures also. Nothing you haven't shown though. My favorite part of the park was the tower faces. Everyone closed their eyes before squirting from their virtual mouths except this one guy with a stud in his nose. I think I have a picture of that.

    Was it just me (probably) or was the bridge nothing to get excited over?

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