By Dave Zuchowski
CNHI News Service
The last time I was in Chicago, Millennium Park, the 24-1/2 acre state-of-the-art collection of architecture, art and landscape design that straddles Michigan Avenue in the Loop, was still under construction.
Intended to celebrate the turn of the millennium in 2000, the park was completed four years behind schedule, but has really caught on since becoming one of Chicago’s top three attractions.
After my first, but amazing, visit to the top of Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower, which once held the title of the world’s tallest building for 25 years and, at 110-stories, is still the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, I strolled into Millennium Park.
Located on what was once an industrial wasteland, the park offers hundreds of free cultural events, including many in the Frank Gerhy-designed Pritzker Pavilion, a colossal elliptical structure made of stainless steel.
Another popular installation, Cloud Gate, is a 12-foot tall concave sculpture with a highly polished surface that distorts the images of its surroundings. I joined the throng of visitors who walked up to and around Cloud Gate to watch their reflection change shapes, much like the trick mirrors at an amusement park or carnival.
Not to be overlooked, the Crown Fountain is made up of two, 50-foot glass block towers built at the ends of a reflecting pool. Faces of Chicago residents are projected onto the towers, and the designer positioned holes where their mouths are located to make them look like they’re spouting water.
Five acres of the park are devoted to the Lurie Garden, enclosed on two sides by a 15-foot tall hedge. As I made my way through the horticultural setting, I spotted a young lady crouched on her hands and knees plating bulbs.
"You’ll have to come back this spring when 100,000 of them will be in bloom," she said.