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How the Lucas Museum Design Will Change Chicago's Lakefront

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Yesterday, during a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria, Chinese architect Ma Yansong of MAD Architects unveiled his design concept for the future Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts and told reporters that his concept — a seven-story, dome-like structure that gently slopes towards a halo-like observation deck — represents a "new type of architecture." That may be an understatement. Yansong's renders may not reveal a sponge-like structure, however, Yansong has dropped a controversial design that would certainly provide a new look for the city's lakefront but also is highly likely to be contested by the organization Friends of the Parks. The proposed 110 foot tall structure as revealed, will be built from stacks of precisely cut stone, and would be something like a gleaming white temple to computer-aided organic design, standing in sharp contrast to the steel-framed skyscrapers in the background. As one Twitter user commented, the Museum Campus lakefront may soon get another UFO-shaped structure.

Yansong's concept for the 400,000 square foot structure caused immediate reaction. Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin jokingly suggested on Twitter that a certain sci-fi crime boss may have been an inspiration. Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business called the museum a "design that R2-D2 would pan." Co.Design called it "an Egyptian pyramid reimagined for the year 2020" and Cassandra Francis, president of Friends of the Parks, which opposed the museum as an illegal intrusion onto the Lakefront, called it a "land-eating colossus." Curbed National calls it a "moon mountain with a floating halo." Other residents took to Twitter to express their lukewarm reaction to the museum design, with many comparing it the extraterrestrial-looking Soldier Field. Alderman Brendan Reilly joined the chorus and compared the design to Jabba the Hutt's desert spaceship.

According to Kamin, guests to the museum would encounter a domed lobby and a series of ramps directing them towards four more levels of exhibition space, hosting Lucas' Star Wars memorabilia and art collection, as well as four movie theaters, a sixth-floor restaurant (or cantina), education center and the aforementioned observation deck, boasting 360-degree city views. While details haven't been completely spelled out, the concept would also include additional green space — especially important considering the prime parkland being given to the museum — as well as room for tailgating Bears fans. The amphitheater and entrance would flow into the surrounding site. Overall, the building would be four times the size of the rejected San Francisco proposal.

While no official price tag has been announced, estimates suggest $400 million, to be funded by Lucas and implemented by Chicago-based VOA Associates. There are still plenty of hurdles to jump through before the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art gets anywhere near groundbreaking, but for now, a bold vision has been advanced for the future look of the city's shoreline.

Architect Ma Yansong shares his vision for the Lucas Museum design from Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on Vimeo.

Patrick Sisson
·Lucas Museum design an architectural mountain on city's lakefront [Tribune]
·First peek given of how Lucas Museum might look [Sun-Times]
·Prepare Yourself For a Sponge-Like Lucas Museum [Curbed Chicago]
·The Future Lucas Museum is Going to Look Really Cool [Curbed Chicago]
·Previous Lucas museum coverage [Curbed Chicago]