|click images for larger view|
|Grant Park bandsheel c. 1936 photograph by Fred Korth, courtesy Calumet 412|
It's no small miracle that we didn't wind up with something similarly underwhelming at Millennium Park. The master plan by Skidmore, Ownings and Merrill followed Chicago's accustomed Beaux Arts-styled park template, with a modest concert facility penci1led in near Randolph Street at the north end of the park.
Bryan started to go all millennial, seeing the beginning of a new 1,000 years as the perfect opportunity to create a Chicago institution that would be worthy of such an epochal transition. Soon, in partnership with the Park District's Edward Uhlir, Bryan was dramatically upping the ante on the park's ambitions, and getting Chicago's philanthropic elite to buy into their vision. Key among them was heiress Cindy Pritzker, who hated, hated, hated the modest, traditional design proposed for the bandshell.
In 1999, it was announced that the Pritzker Foundation would be contributing $15 million for a new Millennium Park concert pavilion to be designed by Frank Gehry. Gehry's first attempt was a respectfully austere homage to the tradition of Mies van der Rohe “We started off with a very simply cover which was a very functional shed,” recalled Gehry partner Craig Webb.
Gehry's Chicago patrons, however, were having none of it. Just two years before, Gehry, pushing 70 and after decades of innovative work, had exploded onto the world architecture scene with the opening of his Techno-Baroque Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Chicago wanted its own version of Bilbao, and the Pritzker Pavilion was going to be it. The final cost would be somewhere north of $60 million.
|Pritzker Pavilion before the ribbon-cutting, opening day July 16, 2014|
At the time Millennium Park opened ten years ago, Tribune architecture crtic Blair Kamin compared the Pritzker Pavilion to the follies - faux classical ruins - with which the wealthy decorated their estates. I talked about it as a non-functional “garnish.” Now I've come to see it as something much more.
I had written how the bottom half of the proscenium was functional - pushing the sound out over the seats - while the top was purely decorative. In fact, that's how Uhlir and company got the thing past the height restrictions on buildings in the park. The proscenium was simply classified a sculpture to circumvent the ban.
Rick Talaske . Gehry rejected the standard approach used at the Petrillo bandshell to unsatisfactory aural results - speakers perched like vultures on a sea of sightline-stealing supports. “You would have had a yard full of vertical poles with speakers on them like lollipops,” is how Frank Gehry described it, “and that would have been kind of cheesy looking.”
Flashback: From Millennium Park's Opening . . .
Frank Gehry and his new Pritzker bandshell
Millenniun Park and the development the Techno-Baroque
Construction of Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion
After the Hype: A Millennium Park Post-Mortem