Millennium Park and Cloud Gate

The concept of Millennium Park was first developed in 1998 when Mayor Daley proposed an area of Grant Park be built over the unattractive parking lots and railway tracks. Completed in 2004, Millennium Park today is a $270 million, 24-acre area of unusual architecture, sculpture, and landscaping in the heart of downtown Chicago. Cloud Gate, known as “the bean,” is the unique, main tourist attraction at Millennium Park. This enormous elliptical sculpture, designed by world famous artist Anish Kapoor from Bombay, India, was completed in 2005. Kapoor’s sculpture, his first for the U.S., was officially unveiled in July 16, 2004 and dedicated on May 16, 2006. Weighing 110 tons and measuring 66’ high by 33’ long by 42’ wide, Cloud Gate consists of seamless stainless steel plates forged over a hollow steel frame. At a cost of $23 million, this amazing structure was built onsite at the AT&T Plaza in the northeast corner of the Park. Resembling liquid mercury, the entire surface of “the bean” reflects the clouds and skyline of Chicago and the changing images of visitors who walk beneath its 12-foot arch

Visitors to the city will find there are a number of other interesting features of music, art, and design within the Park. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, stands 120’ high beneath a steel trellis ceiling and ribbons of steel that support its incredible sound and lighting effects. The stage of the Pavilion measures 85’ across and is 38’ deep, with an orchestra pit for l00 players or more. This 4,000 seat concert arena, along with the Great Lawn that will accommodate an additional 70,000 people, is home to the Grant Park Music Festival of classical music, as well as to other outdoor musical, theater, and dance performances. The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus perform from mid-June to mid-August on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. During the winter, more intimate concerts are held behind the glass doors of the Pavilion stage.

The Crown fountain, designed by Jaume Plensa, consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow, reflecting pool. Video images of 1,000 Chicago citizens are projected on LED screens, with each face remaining on the screen for approximately five minutes. Designed to represent the gargoyles and mythological beings of ancient fountains, water, as a symbol of life, is turned on to flow from the mouths of the images from mid-spring to mid-fall.

The 2.5-acre Lurie Garden reflects Chicago’s motto “City in a Garden,” and is protected by a 15-foot growing hedge, an idea borrowed from Carl Sandburg’s “City of Big Shoulders.” The hedge, consisting of beech, hornbeam, and arborvitae trees, is expected to take about 10 years to complete its growth. A footbridge divides the garden diagonally into light and dark areas of vegetation, separated by a corridor called the Seam. The dark plate, representing Chicago’s history, is composed of shade loving plants in a Cloud Grove of trees, while the light area is filled with sun-loving perennials, representing the bright future of the city.

The Chase promenade, a three-block long walkway shaded by 200 trees, spans the center of the Park and the Boeing Galleries line the mid-level terraces of the Park for displays of modern and contemporary art. In addition, there are four Exelon Pavilions at each corner of the Park for converting solar energy to electricity. The Millennium Park Welcome Center is housed in the northwest Pavilion, where access is also provided to the parking garage. Visitors to the Park are encouraged to stop by the Center, open 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., for maps, program schedules, and general information.

Hours: Open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Admission is free. Handicap facilities are available. Accessible by bus, subway, and the Metra train. Underground parking available in three garages. Concession carts throughout the Park for refreshments and the Park Grill, an indoor and outdoor restaurant seating 300, for full-service dining.

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