Brief History of Millennium Park:
You might never guess that Millennium Park
, recipient of the 2009 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence
, was once an industrial wasteland transformed into a world-class public park. In fact, from the 1850s until 1997, the land that is now occupied by Millennium Park was controlled by the Illinois CentralRailroad
. Visionary Chicago leader Daniel Burnham
considered the railroad’s control of this area, covered with unsightly railroad tracks and parking lots, to be so untouchable that it remained blight on Chicago’s lakefront throughout the 20th century.
What is now Millennium Park was first conceived in late 1997 with Mayor Richard M. Daley’s vision of turning the area into a new public space for residents of Chicago. Over time, with the commitment of the private sector and the involvement of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the project evolved into an ambitious undertaking featuring a collection of world-renowned artists, architects, planners, landscape architects and designers. Today, the 24.5-acre Millennium Park represents an unprecedented public-private partnership, and has become a thoroughly modern achievement for Chicago in the tradition of its original founders.
The Lurie Garden:
Designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichols Ltd., Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel, this 5 acre garden pays homage to the City’s motto, “Urbs in Horto” (City in a Garden), which refers to Chicago’s transformation from its flat and marshy origins to a bold and powerful city. Highlights of The Lurie Garden
include the dramatically lit, 15-foot-high “shoulder” hedge. This physical representation of Sandburg’s famous description of the “City of Big Shoulders” encloses the garden on two sides and protects the delicate perennial garden from the throngs of concert-goers to and from the bandshell. This structure exemplifies the unusual strength and structure of this Chicago garden, where plants rise taller than people.
The Extrusion Plaza– The Extrusion Plaza is an extension of the existing north-south circulation spine through Millennium Park. It links Monroe Street and the southwest Exelon Pavilion with The Lurie Garden and continues north toward the Pritzker Pavilion and the rest of Millennium Park.
The Shoulder Hedge– A giant, muscular hedge encloses the interior Garden from the north and west. From the Art Institute, the “big shoulders” of the Shoulder Hedge appear to support the gleaming “headdress” of the Pritzker Pavilion to the north. The Hedge is a living wall that protects the delicate perennials within the Garden from heavy pedestrian traffic moving throughout Millennium Park.
West Hedge– The West Hedge is a topiary feature that playfully tells the classical Greek story of a nymph who escaped from Apollo by becoming a Laurel tree. In contrast to the historical references within the Garden, this story explores the futuristic theme of the Garden that is expressed in the Light Plate – Chicago’s powerful control of the natural landscape for urban growth, industry, and agriculture.
Dark Plate– Strong, nostalgic, mysterious and cool, the Dark Plate expresses the early landscape history of the site and the city. The site was once a wild shoreline and river delta. The challenging character and lush feeling of this historic condition is in dramatic contrast to the current elevation and form of Millennium Park.
The Light Plate renders the future in an exhilarating landscape. The Light Plate is bold, warm, dry and bright. Unlike the volume of the Dark Plate, in which a person feels enveloped, the Light Plate is a contoured, controlled plane experienced by walking on its surface.
Seam– The Seam is the special corridor or “break” between the two Plates. It is not a thoroughfare, but rather a place to casually stroll.
Boardwalk and Water Features– The Boardwalk floats over stepped pools, leaving a 5′ wide exposed surface of water along the Dark Plate’s vertical stone face (the Seam Wall). The Boardwalk is built of sturdy Ipe wood and is designed as a strolling path as well as a place to gather.
Lighting– At night, The Lurie Garden transforms into a subtly glowing “container” of light. The Shoulder Hedge acts as the solid container to this soft and magical night scene. This focuses anticipation and attention on those special openings and pathways that break the form of the Hedge and allow the inviting, interior light to be seen.