Kevin Nance has a nice article in Thursday's Chicago Sun-Times talking about all the Chicago locations used in the new Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock romance The Lake House, which was shot here last year and opens nationwide Friday. Written by Chicago native David Auburn, it makes use of an unusually diverse range of Chicago architecture, not just the usual tourist standby's such as the Picasso Statue and the ice rink at Millennium Park, but lesser-known landmarks as the Old Colony and Fine Arts Building. It's reported to be an exceptionally intelligent film - both Keanu Reeves and Christopher Plummer, his father in the movie, play architects. Nance draws an interesting parallel between the picture's time shifting theme and the way architecture, itself, is a kind of time travel that bridges historic eras with the present.
One thing Nance doesn't cover, however, is the film's title star. The Lake House was constructed specifically for the movie at Maple Lake in the Palos Forest Preserve, Production designer Nathan Crowley took the 2,000 square foot structure from sketches to completion in just ten weeks: 2 weeks design and documentation, 4 days bidding, and a scant seven weeks for actual construction. 35 tons of steel were used in the project, and a crew of nearly one hundred was required to finish the house by the time filming was scheduled to begin.
Structural engineers at McDonough Associates were honored for their work on the house by having it nominated as a finalist in the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois 2006 Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards (full disclosure: I served on the jury). The house was actually constructed on dry land next to the lake, atop steel beams that rose 10 feet above the waterline, which was created by excavating nearly 1,200 cubic feet of soil and letting lake waters flood in under the pilings. Although the house would be exposed to strong spring winds, Crowley vetoed diagonal bracing, which would obstruct camera angles. McDonough Associates had to come up with "moment resisting frames" that minimized the kind of lateral movement that could crack the house's all-glass walls.
The Lake House, however, is the only one of the movie's Chicago locations that you can't revisit. It was taken down immediately after filming. The soil was put back, and it's now the site of a new fishing pier.