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Chicago Art Institute Unveils Revised Plans for Its Addition


Images Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago revealed Renzo Piano’s revised plans for a new addition in a daylong series of events on May 31. No earth was actually turned at the “groundbreaking” and $110 million remain to be raised for the $258 million structure and its endowment prior to the start of construction. Piano’s original design was unveiled in May of 2001, and was to have been completed in 2006.

The 264,000-square-foot addition will face the city’s acclaimed Millennium Park, and has been subtly modified in size, configuration, and materials. The building’s signature element, a “flying carpet” canopy, was initially conceived in glass, but is now proposed as a 216-foot-by-216-foot light-shading device made of sleek aluminum fins that will “float” above the building’s gallery spaces.

The current proposal also adds a 900-foot-long bridge that starts near the lawn of Frank Gehry’s Millennium Park bandshell and rises to a third floor outdoor sculpture terrace and dining facilities for the museum. Piano describes his straight and thin edged design as a “knife” that will contrast with the “lazy river” of Gehry’s nearby BP Bridge.

An exhibition of Piano’s design for the museum will remain on view in an exhibit entitled “Zero Gravity: The Art Institute of Chicago, Renzo Piano, and Building for a New Century” through October 2. The museum expects to open the new structure to the public in spring of 2009.


Edward Keegan