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Chicago has some killer green spaces for residents and visitors alike to escape the shadows of the skyscrapers and noise of the streets. One of the best is also one of the oldest: Grant Park was been a waterfront oasis since 1844 and includes gardens, lawns, biking/walking trails, playing fields, fountains, skating rinks, performance spaces and monuments plus anchors some of the most popular attractions. Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum and Institute of Art all border Grant's expanse and one corner - Millennium Park - offers the best bargain in Chicago for free summer concerts at its enormous Frank Gehry-designed pavilion. Especially interesting about Millennium is that it's not just a park, it's one of the biggest green roofs in the world as it covers one of the most enormous parking complexes.
There's far too much stuff to do to list so reference the websites below for attractions and most current events. I have pictured here (in order):
Crown Fountain: Millenium Park
Cloud Gate sculpture (nicknamed "The Bean"): Millennium Park
Jay Pritzker Pavillion: Millenium Park
Buckingham Fountain: Grant Park
Millenium Monument, Wrigley Square: Millenium Park
The June, 2011 VT meet happily coincided with the Grant Park Music Festival and our group camped out on the lawn at the pavilion one balmy evening for several hours of classical music: great fun.
Announced this year: Chicago is planning the largest park in the lower 48 states with the addition of 140,000 acres that, when finished, will be 10 times the size of Manhattan. Grant/Millenium parks will be northern-most end of this behemoth to be christened Millennium Reserve.
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The 'Bean' at Millenium Park
Between the columns of the Millenium Monument and the Crown Fountain is the masterpiece of the Park, as far as I am concerned! It was a beautiful sunny day, well able to bring the allure of the stainless steel 'Cloud Gate' (also affectionately known as 'the bean') up to its full grandeur.
Proposed by British artist Anish Kapoor in 1999, his idea was accepted by the city but it was not until 7 years and $23 million dollars later that it reached its completion! As the park brochures say: "the sculpture is shaped like an ellipse, and its legume-like appearance has caused it to be nicknamed 'The Bean'. It is made of 168 highly polished stainless steel plates, and stands at 33 feet high, 66 feet long, and 42 feet wide, weighing 110 tons. From a distance it could be mistaken for a huge drop of mercury, while up close its highly reflective surface captures and transforms the skyline, the downtown cityscape and even the passers-by into a wonderfully warped new vista. The artist...has referred to the sculpture as 'a gate to Chicago, a poetic idea about the city it reflects.' The 12-foot underbelly is called the "omphalos" or navel and multiplies reflections in a vortex."
I just enjoyed its polished beauty as its curved shape resulted in many interesting reflections of all the people enjoying it that day!
- Business Travel
Millennium's New Monument
Millennium Park's new monument at Wrigley Square is really a re-creation of the Colonnades designed by Chicago architect Edward Bennett (he also did Buckingham Fountain). Bennett's monument was located at this same spot, but it was razed in 1953. This replica is somewhat smaller to acommodate the handicapped ramp that was required by law.
This monument is 40-foot-tall and made of granite; columns stand over a reflecting pool and have a base inscribed with the names of those donating one million dollars or more.
The names are not yet inscribed in the granite, but a realistic-looking fabric copy is up there now. (2006" They are now inscribed!)
This area of the park is located at the corner of Upper Randolph Drive and Michigan Avenue. It is named after the William Wrigley Jr. Company Foundation which gave five million dollars.
I really liked this monument. It's accessible to the public. You can sit around the fountain (unlike Buckingham Fountain which has low fence around it.) Loving architecture, history, and ancient Greece, it is to my taste...classical and elegant.
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With Time, Lurie Garden Will Become Spectacular
My prediction came true! Lurie Garden is, indeed, Spectacular..2007.
Lurie Garden is about 3 acres in size & is located in the southeast corner of Millennium Park. The plantings are symbolic of Chicago's history...they have a massive "Shoulder Hedge" that frames the perennial plants...those of you who know Chicago realize that it is called "The City of The Big Shoulders." There is also a long, creek-like water feature which symbolizes Lake Michigan, I think. Along the west side, they plan to pierce the hedges with cutouts that will give spectators a view into the inner garden & an array of sculptures & topiary forms.
The garden sits above the grade of Monroe & Columbus Drives; enclosing hedges help cut the street noises. The hedges are beeches, hornbeam, & arborvitae, which may take 8 years to fill in completely. There are redbud trees on the eastern side of the garden (only saplings). (Planted in hopes that when fully grown, they will give light shade, giving the area a mysterious feel.
As a gardener, I was thrilled to see over 130 different kinds of plants...widely spaced to account for the natural spread....many of these plants are native to Illinois.
So glad I saw its beginning & have seen it grow & mature through the years.
Kathryn Gustafson & Jennifer Guthrie are the landscape architects along with with Dutch perennial plant master, Piet Oudolf & Robert Israel, architect, who planned this garden.
The water & the boardwalk follow the line of the old Illinois central Railroad retaining wall that was here before. The hedges on the west side are supposed to evoke the "movement of industrial processes such as the city's once-great steel industry".
The garden is named after Ann Luriewho is a Chicago philanthropist who donated 10 million dollars for its construction & upkeep.
You needed an imagination to enjoy Lurie Garden in its early stages, but, oh, what memories one has of what it once was & then what it has become.
- Arts and Culture
Multi-Million Dollar Jay Pritzker Pavilion
I was fortunate to hear a concert here one July evening...what an experience.
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn in Millennium Park cost $60.3 million dollars thus far. It consists of 2 interconnected buildings, both full of "structural bravura".
a. A band shell with cantilevered "headdress" of stainless steel shells that reach 120 feet high.
b. A trellis of curving steel pipes that forms a domelike structure that is 600 feet long & 320 feet wide.
Wow! is what comes to mind. The trellis is open to the sky & sweeps over the entire seating area, & it also supports speakers & lights, which avoids using intrusive poles. It is made up of 679 stainless steel panels interlocked to form a series of curving structures.
The metal shells of Gehry's design (Also designed the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain) fly into the sky but are balanced because the circular, steel-clad pylons that hold up his trellis make a subtle "reference to the classical columns of Grant Park." This trellis reveals rather than conceals structure.
The music Pavilion is named after the Pritzker family who own the Hyatt Hotel chain & who donated $15 million dollars.
The Great Lawn is 3 football fields long! The under roof audience, in bold red chairs, is made up of 4,000 people; 7,000 more can sit on The Great Lawn under the Trellis. Thus, the trellis serves as a "social gesture" because it unites those in the fixed seats with those people on the lawn.
The Pavilion is the centerpiece of the park and dominates the vista down Washington Street, and the trellis can be seen from Madison St.
The stage has air conditioning and can accommodate 120 musicians & a chorus of 150 singers; sliding glass doors can enclose the stage for year around use.
They are still experimenting with the sound, and as soon as that is completed, many critics will agree with me....WOW!
Chicago's Newest Park: Millennium Park
"Eventually, I think that Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world."...Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect, 1939
Allan & I visited the newly-opened Millennium Park for my birthday celebration in July of 2004. ( I've visited it several times since then. On Saturday, July22, 2006 was the latest to celebrate another birthday!)It was quite an experience. Because they were getting ready for a hugh money-making extravaganza, the public could not get close to Frank Gehry's masterpiece called the Pritzker Pavilion, which is an 11,000 spectator music pavilion in Millenium Park. 4,000 seats are under cover, and 7,000 more are on the grass under the intricate metal pipes which is part of his masterpiece.
However, we were able to see McCormick Tribune ice skating rink, which becomes an outdoor eating venue for Park Grill in the summer; the Crown Fountain; The Lurie Gardens; the fabulous collection of photographs called "Family Album" by Uwe Ommer; The BP Bridge, a silver metal snake-like bridge that connects Millennium Park to the other side of Columbus Avenue; The 'Cloud Gate' Sculptor; Bank One Promenade; Wrigley Square and the recreated peristyle colonnades; & the Bicycle Parking area.
Give yourself at least three hours to leisurely visit all that is available. It's a remarkable 24.5 acre park that is jam-packed with nature, man-made monuments and sculptures, cultural structures, & skyscraper background viewing.
What a birthday celebration it was for me; one that I will remember always.
EACH SECTION OF THE PARK WILL APPEAR UNDER "must see" OR "general" TIPS
- Arts and Culture
Millenium Park - don't miss it!
By 10:30 AM, it was still relatively early on a Sunday morning but I was ready for some green space after my hour and a half meandering stroll through the city streets - and Millenium Park fit the bill perfectly!
Opened in the summer of 2004 (after years of battling) on the former site of a railway switching yard and parking lots, Millenium Park has an amazing assortment of attractions for people of all ages - with lots of green grass and a view out over Lake Michigan to boot.
My first stop was at the Millenium Monument, featuring an arc of 40-ft Doric columns in the best classical tradition facing a lush lawn. Continuing onward toward the lakefront, the next thing you will run into is the strangely and futuristically-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion (2nd & 3rd photos). For various concerts and events it can seat 4,000 comfortably with another 7,000 able to make use of its huge lawn with pipes for the sound system arching overhead. Closer to the main seating area are a series of stainless steel structures that provide the great acoustics the Pavilion is known for.
A bit further on and back toward the street is Crown Fountain, another attraction that is great fun for children, and I enjoyed watching 'the show' myself. To quote the literature: "Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, it consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow, sparkling reflecting pool. The towers project video images of diverse Chicago citizens, which Plensa claims is a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles in fountains, where faces of mythological beings were sculpted with open mouths to allow water to flow out." The final two photos show the crowd waiting for the 'face' to change its expression to one that results in it ejecting a stream of water into the splash pool below, much to the delight of the children.
But really, the most amazing thing was 'Cloud Gate' - next tip!
- Business Travel
Sit or Stroll in Millenium Park
Absolutely beautiful park in Chicago with lots of things to do for everyone! You can walk around the gardens, see some modern art, have lunch, or just sit and watch the people pass by. There is also a lot of grass, in the sun or in the shade, so you can lie down for a siesta or read a book. When the weather is warm, there are also two fountains of water to splash in, and a dipping area to soak your feet. You can bring a lunch, or there is also a nice outdoor cafe and restaurant here called "The Park Grill," which I would recommend. Many nice concerts and performances are held here at the Pritzker Pavilion, so be sure to check their schedule. In winter, there's ice skating and snow! Come and see! >>See my travelogue for more pics!
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Millennium Park-Crown Fountain
The Crown Fountain (the name comes from the wealthy Chicago family that sponsored the fountain) is another highlight of Millennium Park, 2-50 foot towers that feature faces of 1,000 random people photographed by students from the School of the Art Institute in 2003. The faces show up in random order and stay on for about 5 minutes. The fountains are turned on from late April-mid-October.
Be sure to stick around for a few minutes to see the fun part of the fountain when the picture changes ever so slightly, the eyes shut and the lips purse into an "o", then hidden pumps spit water out of their mouths. During the warmer months, kids love to come play in the water shooting out from the fountain.
ICE SKATING IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO
A fun winter activity is to head down to Millenium Park and Daley Bicentennial Plaza and have fun ICE SKATING IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO. Several folks were enjoying the mild winter day skating to the music being played through the loud-speakers. Rent some ice skates and skate to your heart's content at the ice rink at Millenium Park.
- Family Travel
The 24.5 acre MILLENIUM PARK is bordered by Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, Randolph and Monroe Streets. It showcases a collection of world-renowned artists, architects and designers including Frank Geary (Jay Pritzker Pavilion), Anish Kapoor (Cloud Gate) and Jaume Plensa ( Crown Fountain). Designed as a year-round cultural and entertainment destination, Millenium Park offers a wide array of attractions for its visitors.
- Family Travel
Millennium Park-"the Bean"
Millennium Park took a few extra years past the millennium to be completed (whether you argue that the start of the millennium was 2000 or 2001), officially opening in July 2004, and Cloud Gate took even longer finally being dedicated in May, 2006 after many months of polishing. And more polishing. And more polishing. The cost, originally estimated to be $9 million, mushroomed to $23 million. I'm still a little stunned when I think about THAT amount of money for a giant silver kidney bean ;-)
I'll have to admit, I laughed very long and hard when I heard about the addition of this scuplture to the much awaited-and delayed-Millennium Park. But now that I've seen it in person, I think it's pretty cool. Maybe not $23 million dollars cool but hey, I didn't pay for it!
It's official name, given to it by Bombay born sculptor Anish Kapoor, is Cloud Gate but it instantly received the nickname of "the bean". It is 9 feet high at the center allowing folks to walk underneath it (hence the Gate part of the name)
Due to it's reflective polished stainless steel exterior, it is a work of art that is never the same, producing a warped reflection of the city's skyline and the people who come to marvel at it. I've seen some pretty interesting pictures that people have taken of it. Try to visit both in the daylight hours and in the evening after dark, the view of the nighttime skyline reflection is also pretty cool.
A $475 million urban park!!
When I found out how much it had cost to build Millennium Park, I must admit that I was expecting a very large park, perhaps something like NYC's Central Park. On the contrary, Millenium Park is rather small, but its construction presented a major challenge since it was designed to cover the unsightly railways that run between downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. In that perspective, Millennium Park is a very successful endeavour, and since its opening in 2004, it has attracted an average of 23 million visitors per year. Although it doesn't take much time to walk through it, I found myself reaching for my camera time and time again, especially on the AT&T Plaza where Anish Kapoor's sculpture "Cloud Gate" can be seen. This gigantic stainless steel "bean" reflects the buildings lined up across the street along South Michigan Avenue, which makes for very interesting photo options. Another feature I found quite original was the Crown Fountain, which is made up of two giant screens on which are projected the faces of Chicago citizens sprouting water through their mouth. So despite all the controversy surrounding the final cost of Millennium Park, I'd still say it was money well spent since the beauty and uniqueness of the park does a good job of reflecting Chicago's development throughout the 20th century, and taking it to new millennium :o)
- Arts and Culture
Millennium Park - Pritzker Pavillion
Summer 2004 saw the long-awaited unveiling of Millennium Park, Chicago's new urban playground, crucially located on the front steps of the metropolis, adjacent to the Loop and next door to Michigan Avenue. One of the central components of the Park is the Frank Gehry-designed Bandshell, officially named (after a big bucks donor) the Pritzker Pavillion. Frank Gehry - architecture's wunderkind - makes his Chicago debut here with one of the most "high profile" public commissions imaginable. It's very appropriate that Chicago should give allow an out-of-towener with an international reputation to make his mark here. Gehry is one of the world's most important and talked-about designers, and Architecture is almost as much talked about and discussed as sports in Chicago.
(I have visited two other Frank Gehry structures in the US, and have pictures of them on my pages. In Minneapolis, Gehry designed the Weisman Art Museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota. In Toledo, he created an interesting Center for Visual Arts. Gehry certainly does have an identifiably visual style.)
And I think Gehry has lived up to his responsibility, creating an instantly memorable and inviting public space that ought to enhance Chicago's music scene for decades.
In 1997 Mayor Daley had a vision to transform an unattractive piece of property then consisting of railroad tracks and parking garages to a new park to be connected with Grant Park. As it's name suggests it was scheduled to open with the turn of the new Millennium but as with all government projects it was delayed for a few years but it was worth the wait and it gets better every time I visit it.
For most visitors a visit to Millennium Park will start at the corner of Randolph & Michigan, I'd suggest starting at the new Welcome Center at 201 E. Randolph Street where you can get a map of the park or sign up for a Millennium Park Greeter, at 11:30am or 1 pm from May 16, 2009 - Oct 12, 2009. There's also a self guided audio tour you can rent or you can download it for free for your MP3 player
Highlights of the Park include Cloud Gate aka "The Bean", the Crown Fountain and the Gehry designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion (see separate tips).
Other features that you should check out include the Lurie Gardens and the BP bridge that snakes over Columbus Drive.
In the winter time there is an ice skating rink near the Park Grill, in the summertime there are free concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion which is also a nice place to have a picnic lunch and bicycle rentals at the Millennium Park Bicycle Station (Randolph & Columbus).
If you want a sit down meal in the park, there's Park Grill or if you want to do a picnic, try the Park Cafe or Corner Bakery at 360 N. Michigan. If you're coming from N. Michigan Ave. you can also try Fox & Obel at 401 E. Illinois (must call ahead for picnic baskets, 312-379-0133)
In addition to the concerts in the Pavillion, there are other special events during the year, sometimes there are photography exhibits, sometimes there are special sculptures that appear during the warmer months so do be sure to have a walk through the park to see if anything interesting is going on.
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