Chicago’s remarkable new Millennium park is more than just another city park. It is a celebration of landscape design, architecture, and sculpture which has already won world acclaim. Since it opened in 2004 millions of visitors have enjoyed the amazing architecture and art, seen the spectacular free music concerts and dramatic performances at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and relaxed in the breathtakingly beautiful gardens, featuring Anish Kapoor’s monumental “Cloud Gate” sculpture, and Jaume Plensa’s interactive “Crown Fountain.” The land which is now occupied by Millennium Park was originally part of the Illinois Central Railroad’s Watseka healthcare branch line. For most of the twentieth century this land was an unsightly hodge-podge of railroad tracks, parking lots, and vacant lots. In 1997 Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley unveiled a plan for a sixteen acre park (later expanded to over twenty-four acres) and outdoor musical event venue, following Grant Park’s traditional Beaux Arts-style. Soon the project involved world renowned planners, landscape designers, architects, and artists.
The centerpiece of Millennium Park is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry, with its 4,000 seat audience and Great Lawn which can accommodate 7,000 people. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is 120 feet tall, with a billowing, brushed stainless-steel ribbon headdress which frames the stage. The steel ribbons connect to a crisscossing steel trellises overhead, which support the Pavilion’s sound system. The Pavilion is the home of Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, and many other free concerts and events are held there yearly. Frank Gehry also designed the 925-foot long BP Bridge, a triple bypass which connects Millennium Park to the Daley Bicentennial Plaza and the Chicago lakefront and which offers pedestrians incomparable views of Grant Park, Chicago’s skyline, and Lake Michigan.
Other attractions of Millennium Park include the fabulous Lurie Garden, which was designed to include native North American plants as a habitat for bird species and beneficial insects. Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf has contributed a unique garden of both native and non-native perennial plants to create a minimal-maintenance garden which is visually attractive and environmentally sustainable. Another popular attraction is Crown Fountain, designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The fountain consists of 2 fifty-foot towers made of glass block which stand at each end of a reflecting pool. The towers show video images of Chicagoans.
Visitors to Millennium Park are also captivated by British artist Anish Kapoor’s massive “Cloud Gate” sculpture. Weighing in at over a hundred tons, this 66-foot long elliptical stainless-steel plate sculpture reflects the Chicago skyline and the clouds above it. The Gate is a twelve-foot high arch which invites visitors inside to see their images reflected from the mirror-like surface of the sculpture. Besides the sculpture garden, Millennium Park’s Boeing Galleries feature changing public exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, where visitors can experience the latest vision and ideas of living artists. Besides its artistic attractions, Millennium Park offers visitors a 16,000 square foot ice skating rink and the largest al fresco dining venue in the city. Anyone who has just spent time in a nearby Chicago hospital or womens diagnostic center well certainly find the beauty that Millennium Park has to offer.