Monday, November 10, 2014

Who will save Chicago from George Lucas' Space Mountain?

     If cutting-edge architecture were pleasing to the masses of ordinary folk, then it wouldn’t be cutting edge, would it?
     So of course, being a regular Joe, my immediate, visceral reaction to Chinese architect Ma Yansong’s design for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, planned for the lakefront, was to sigh, then shake my head in bewildered sorrow, then jump onto Twitter to lay claim to what I hope will be its derisive nickname attached to it in the same way that Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” is affectionately referred to only as “The Bean.”
     “I’m not in love with George Lucas’ Space Mountain design,” I tweeted. “It looks like landscape of the planet the UFO landing on Soldier Field comes from.”
     A little awkward, that last sentence. But Twitter’s 140-character limit can throw you off your stride.
     “Space Mountain,” of course, is the cheezy roller coaster at Disney World.
     I am not an architecture critic, so I figured it is a done deal if they’re releasing the sketches, and understood that, not being an expert, the wonders of Yansong’s design were perhaps beyond my ken.
     So I was gratified to see that the Tribune’s Blair Kamin, who is an architecture critic, and a good one, gave both barrels to the Lost Alp last week, calling the “widespread public revulsion” toward the design understandable because “this cartoonish mountain of a building would be glaringly out of place” on Chicago’s lakefront. Amen.
     If you want to see where a building like this belongs, look at the Denver International Airport, a series of peaks not unlike a CGI droid army of the ski slope that George Lucas plans to build downtown. The style was sorta hip 20 years ago, but even located in the middle of a Rocky Mountain nowhere, it’s hard to view it kindly. I’ve been through it many times, and my primary thought is: I bet they saved a bundle, putting up a tent, as opposed to constructing an actual roof.

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  1. "Forever, open, free & clear" applies only from Randolph to Roosevelt.
    Meaning Grant Park.
    The rest is governed by the Lakefront Protection Ordinance.
    But why Lucas chose this talentless Chinese architect, instead on a talented Chicagoan is baffling.

    However, the ugliest building in Chicago is the vomit inducing main library, although the Citicorp Building, another Helmut Jahn design, is a disaster, since its main function is that of a commuter rail terminal & it totally fails on that point. Too few doors to the street, which are in the wrong places, plus the need for revolving doors between the platforms & what passes for the headhouse, make exiting the train to go to the street a slow & painful process.
    In addition, it appears they forgot that a train station needs clocks & there aren't any clocks there, except for two bizarrely placed ones.
    When I went through Jahn's offices a couple of years ago, during Open House, I brought that up to the architect giving our group the tour & his comment was, "It wasn't one of our successful designs!"

  2. It is no one's business what someone wants to build on property they own or bought or rent. No one should interfere, and I wouldn't care to even if I hate something.

  3. But they don't own that property: Chicago does.

  4. You know where a "museum" dedicated to "a Saturday afternoon movie cliffhanger space opera — Buck Rogers on steroids" belongs (if anywhere)? Navy Pier. The subject matter is inappropriate for the museum campus. Surely Lucas longs for that level of prestige but it is not merited. It's perfect for Navy Pier and Navy Pier needs it.

  5. You know, the New York Times architecture critic gave a mildly positive review to Soldiers Field (though he's since been replaced, so take that for what it's worth). I kind of like it: the contrast between old and new is interesting and I don't think it's the horrific clash that the folks at the Trib did/do.

    And what's so wrong about Harrold Washington library? If anything it's nondescript, not "vomit inducing."

    1. I'm with you -- the Harold Washington LIbrary is one of my favorite buildings; plus its design won a public vote, so it is more democratic than most. At least for the outside. The building layout is insane.

    2. I agree with you two about the library. I like the outside fine -- better than a lot of newish buildings. But to me, the inside is problematic in ways similar to the flaws that Clark St. mentioned with regard to the train station. Having to go up a series of escalators before one spots a book seems silly, for a library. I've yet to come across any structure, aside from one of those spin-yourself around while sitting on circular wooden benches playground "rides," that is "vomit inducing," but the library isn't even what I'd consider a candidate for that designation.

    3. @Jackash - you probably know this, but technically there's a handful of books at the "rapid" (or whatever they call it) library on the first floor right off of the State Street entrance (but the real prize there is the collection of nonfiction videos - many arcane and definitely not on Netflix!)

    4. "Soldiers Field?" Is that near Kaminsky Park?

    5. That's US Cellular Field to you bub :-) (I'm as bad at copping to my sins as anyone, but readily admit I'm a terrible speller).

    6. Wrong Neil, the public didn't pick this design, they voted for the Ericksen design. He was the Canadian architect who submitted a plan.
      But the jury that did the final pick was fixed.
      The jury head was Tom Beebe, the crappy, incompetent architect who has a firm here & is the head of Yale's architecture school.
      So guess whose design the jury picked?
      That's right, Tom Beebe's wretched, ugly building with the insane interior, where you can't use the elevators to get to the third floor, because Beebe can't lay out the inside of a building correctly. See the Sulzer Library on Lincoln for an earlier miserable design of his.

  6. (PS Anon-not-Anon for Anon 9:11...)

  7. Sorry to pester you about this Neil, but when you said "I'll tuck a note in on Wednesday. It'll be in the paper." when I inquired about the Lyric Opera contest last Monday, did that mean that one had to actually procure a copy of Wednesday's physical Sun-Times? I don't see it anywhere online. Heavens to Murgatroyd!

    1. Sorry. There's an ad in the paper today. Otherwise, this Wednesday. Or Friday. You'll have plenty of time to enter.


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