Parks in the 21st Century Chicago

Topics: Millennium Park, Chicago, Cloud Gate Pages: 5 (1706 words) Published: May 7, 2013
Parks in the 21st century Chicago
Municipal parks are a key component of any metropolitan area. A park provides residents and visitors in the urban space a place to relax in the nature. Traditionally, parks are designed to resemble open woodlands where people find most relaxing. A typical park often consists of short grass that allows for picnics and sports activities, trees that provides shade and beauty as well as ponds. While traditional parks focus on passive recreation activities such as picnics, walking, and running, more and more parks are investing in active recreation activities that engage the residents in group activities to evoke a sense of community and increase visiting. The official motto of Chicago has been Urbs in horto, Latin for “City in a garden”, since 1830s. Daniel Burnham’s plan for the city of Chicago also makes clear that the green space is a cornerstone of Chicago. Its commitment to city parklands is undeniable as the city of Chicago devotes 8.2% of its land to city parks. More than 7,600 acres of parklands are divided into 570 parks within the city limit. Upon the founding of the city of Chicago, the land east of Michigan avenue are designated “public ground – a common to remain forever open, clear and free of any buildings, or other obstruction, whatever.” Thus created the foundation of Grant Park, Millennium Park and Burnham Park.

Millennium Park, the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo and the Bloomingdale Trail represent the three distinctive types of parks that can be found in Chicago: active recreational parks that engage the visitors with attractions, passive recreational parks that provide the visitors with natural environment to relax in, and linear park that renovates the abandoned infrastructure to green spaces.

Millennium Park occupies the north western section of Grant Park, originally an undignified rail-yard and parking lot. The six year construction of Millennium Park was finished in 2004, four years behind schedule. However, almost nine years after the opening, Millennium Park remains the one of most popular tourist attractions in Chicago and the most visited park. The BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Nichols Bridgeway connects Millennium Park to the Northeastern part of Grant Park and the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago respectively. Millennium Park hosts the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and other attractions. Millennium Park differs itself from the other parks in the city of Chicago which often feature Classical Revival architecture and natural environment with its focus on art installations and modern architecture.

The most popular and iconic part of Millennium Park is undoubtedly the Cloud Gate. Designed by the British artist Anish Kapoor, the oval-shaped reflective stainless steel sculpture is the center piece of the AT&T plaza. Although Cloud Gate does not create a walk way as most monumental gates do, the highly polished steel surface of Cloud Gate mirrors the magnificent skyline of the Michigan Avenue and wraps it around its bean-like shape, thus frames the cityscape in a way that is never seen before. East to Cloud Gate is the centerpiece of Millennium Park: Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by the famed architect Frank Gehry. The bandshell features wave-like stainless steel headdress that is similar Frank Gehry’s other designs. The bandshell hosts 4000 seats while the Great Lawn behind the seating area can host another 7000. During the summertime, Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts a variety of music series ranging from classical music to experimental and rock music, while the pavilion is mostly closed during Chicago’s harsh winter. Sitting in the southwestern corner is the Crown Fountain, an interactive video sculpture. The two glass towers frame the black granite pool in the middle. Video clips of local residents appear on the LED screens on the glass tower display while a stream of water shoot from the glass tower...
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