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Blair Kamin Highlights Helmut Jahn's New Vision for Lucas Museum at McCormick Place

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The famed architect suggests a creative lakefront alternative for the embattled Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, but is anyone listening?

A week after local architect Thomas Hickey shared his vision for the controversial Lucas Museum of Narrative Art with columnist Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune architecture critic has highlighted another alternative plan for the cultural institution — this time by architect Helmut Jahn. Instead of the museum capping the rail tracks located west of Lake Shore Drive as proposed by Hickey, Jahn envisions the LMNA largely replacing the massive, low-slung Lakeside Center convention hall at McCormick Place. Helmut Jahn’s idea would embrace a certain degree of adaptive reuse by retaining Lakeside Center’s iconic, flat roof as a sort of overhanging arbor but would largely open up the lower levels to public green space. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would be built above and through the existing roof structure and would feature a curving organic form to contrast with Lakeside’s 1960’s modernist aesthetic.

While Jahn’s creative idea for the Lucas Museum coincidentally supports Kamin’s long-held opinion that the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place needs to go away, the plan is not without its own set of practical challenges. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, who operates the site, contends that there is still a demand for Lakeside Center’s space during the city's larger conventions — or at least until the new McCormick Place event arena AKA the DePaul basketball stadium is completed to the west. Furthermore, because Lakeside Center is located just south of the disputed parking lot where Lucas still hopes to build his museum (pending the outcome of a lawsuit by non-profit advocacy group Friends of the Parks), Jahn’s proposal could easily face a similar court challenge on grounds of violating the same public trust doctrine.

The biggest hurdle facing any new plan may be George Lucas himself. The Star Wars billionaire clearly has his mind set on the lakefront parking lot location and was allegedly not receptive to alternative sites put forth by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, according to Kamin. A ruling on the lawsuit seeking to block the museum’s construction was initially expected for this spring but the latest indication from U.S. District Judge John Darrah suggests that the case may not go to trial until this fall. In the meantime Lucas' representatives may very well make good on their pledge to look at other cities, such as Oakland, as the filmmaker’s patience wears thin.

·Helmut Jahn has a big idea for George Lucas: Revamp McCormick Place [Chicago Tribune]

·Kamin: Tear down lakefront McCormick Place [Chicago Tribune]

·Kamin: Put the Lucas Museum Over the Train Tracks [Curbed Chicago]

·Lucas Museum Reps Are Looking at Other Cities for Project [Curbed Chicago]