Friday, August 05, 2005

Millennium Park Has Broke Its Crown

A long, hot summer overheats one of the Crown Jewels of Chicago's Millennium Park.

(Originally published in slightly different and far better edited form under the title "At Least This One's Under Warranty" in the Chicago Reader, August 5th, 2005)

The first of Millennium Park's crowd-pleasers to develop a major problem was the Bean, as Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate has come to be called. An enormous public success when favorite since its unveiling last July, the sculpture's been mostly hidden inside a tent since January as workers grind down and polish the seams between its 168 metal plates. In the process the original budgeted cost has almost doubled, to $17 million. According to Karen Ryan, spokesperson for the Department of Cultural Affairs, no completion date has been set.

Now there's been a meltdown at Jaume Plensa's award-winning Crown Fountain, the shallow sea of water stretched between two 50-foot tall towers whose LED panels project an array of more than 1,000 different faces that spout water from pursed lips. Recent visitors have noticed "dropouts," blank spaces interspersed like zits on the faces of the south tower.

. . . Read the article


Anonymous said...

It is exciting to see a fresh energy re-emerging in Chicago architecture - for awhile, it seemed as though the city was in a state of serious hibernation.
I don't necessarily agree with all that is being built and proposed, but for the most part, I welcome it. The bad (and problematic) architecture helps one appreciate the good and having both as a means of comparison helps educate and tune one's critical thinking and appreciation.

Even with these emerging hiccups at Millenium Park, I still find the project extremely successful, in the sense that it has created a wonderful, interactive urban public space. I think people forget how fantastic public parks/plazas can be... Millenium Park is a nice reminder.

On a previous post, you discussed the Calatrava tower hype, tying in some comments on Trump Tower and some recent architectural exhibits in the city...

I was sad to see the old Chicago Sun-Times building demolished. It was by no means a supermodel of a building, and with it gone, a fantastic view of the IBM Building has been offered, but in my opinion, it should have remained, or at least in some way preserved or re-used/salvaged. When you look upon a city's skyline, you read its history. If buildings continue to be regarded as 'disposable', what does that say about our society's respect for architectural history and preservation... and the environment for that matter?

I had an opportunity to see the Visionary Chicago Architecture exhibit at the Art Institute. While I found it interesting and somewhat inspiring, I had to question why only those selected architects... for an exhibit titled 'visionary', why not call upon all architects, artists, regular men, women and children on the street and ask THEM, "what do you envision"? If we are pushing our creative limits, why hold back?

Thank you for your refreshing and candid architectural commentary.
- Ingrida Martinkus

Anonymous said...

The fountain has been a fantastic addition to city. This unfortunate operational problem will be rectified and full enjoyment will return. I believe it will take more than a week to correct the inherent problem(s) which seems to be overheating. Highly skilled engineering firms have been solicited for proposals to investigate and develop long-term solutions.

Anonymous said...

I would agree that the fact there are "bugs" in the development of various works trying to use technology isn't anything new in itself. Till today, whenever architects present beautiful tall, full-glass surfaced buildings, they never show the extra required of special machinery for climbing and cleaning that surface, the mildew or condensation that occurs, and so on.
What interested me was the silliness of the fountain, and how it got so far, and as usual what it says about "art". How much more fitting to ARCHITECTURE and its scale and temporal life, those abstract-test colors were, just look at the pictures and compare. I dont want to see a huge head - a god?? - and some spit coming out of its mouth. That is what occurs when without any thought you convert the idea of cupids, psyches, and the like spewing water from a mythological status into a secular, and even banal one. Oops- meaning is required, or else someone is spitting suddenly. And anyway, the truth is, for all the largeness, it was so empty no one cared if it were replaced by abstract colors. And that is the point isnt it,how important were these "faces" of everyday people, if no one noticed when they were abstract. There was a really interesting beauty when I saw the image of a stream of water coming out from asbtract colors, that could have been the start of something. The banal silly one-liner of people's faces spitting out water, is just a typical geek-technology sculpture, trying to do something with a new technology and having no content, so ending up with some half-thought through idea, scaled up to colossus and deemed "for the public" space. It is spitting at you daily folks.