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An Alternative View: In Support of the Chicago Children's Museum in Grant Park






 -by "Jack"

[May 14, 2008] - A alternative viewpoint in support of the proposal to build a new home for the Chicago Children's Museum at Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park.


The Magic of America, by Marion Mahony Griffin


If you've followed at all the very spirited debate that has taken place in the comments made to my blog postings on the proposed move of the Chicago Children's Museum to Grant Park, you will know that the most vigorous support for the proposal has come from "Jack".

Jack has chosen to maintain his anonymity, but he has given us this background information. He is a practicing architect who has built office buildings, condo's, apartments schools and lab, with projects downtown, throughout Chicago, and at other locations both domestic and foreign. He has taught at the Harvard GSD, U of I Champaign, University and Cincinnati, UIC and IIT. (I'm betting that by now, a lot of my architect readers have had no trouble placing him).

Jack has graciously taken the time to put aside the usual polemics that have marked the discussion on both sides to provide the following critique in support of the Children's museum.

The Children’s Museum program is basically just a dumb box. Like many museums, they want to maximize wall space, flex-space, and lighting conditions in Chicago Children's Museum, Krueck and Sexton, architectsorder to maximize control over exhibits. Therefore, this program would seem to be unusually well-suited to the proposed Grant Park location. From what I can tell from the drawings including the plans, sections, elevations, and interior and exterior perspectives, Krueck and Sexton have done a remarkable job of opening up not only the museum to the park, but connecting upper Randolph with the park that covers the million square foot Monroe Street Underground Garage (all of which, interestingly enough from the Ward mandate, was built above existing grade at the time).

Currently, the only way to access the park is along the two ‘graceful’, yet too-steep-for-wheelchairs ramps on either side of a concrete plaza along upper Randolph. TheChicago Children's Museum, Krueck and Sexton, architects existing condition of the concrete plaza affords a beautiful view of the park beyond including Buckingham Fountain, but it is rarely used due to the fact the steep ramps are each about a block away. The CCM proposal will allow park visitors from Randolph to enter the park along this access via a winding ramp and a stair. The ramp appears to me that it will interact with the interiors of the museum in a bridge-like manner (as you have already conveniently pointed out) creating quite a interesting experience….not unlike the thrill everyone seems to enjoy crossing the Gehry bridge and the soon to be new Piano bridge landmark.

Added green space, removal and replacement of deteriorating and non-accessible field house, a design by one of the city’s most heralded architects, the chance for Daley Bicentennial Plaza, current, and with proposed Chicago Children's Museum, Krueck and Sexton, architectsmany more children from all over the city and beyond to enjoy Grant Park….what’s not to like? Again from an architectural point of view, I think the K+S design is noteworthy in not only the experiential connections it makes with Millennium Park, but in the way it integrates glass, landscape, and movement to transition from the park on top of the garage to upper Randolph while revealing somewhat of the truth that the entire park is in fact a building.

One final note, when I first heard of this latest redesign, I have to admit I was skeptical….I feared it would be a compromise that would benefit no one. I was happy to discover my fears were groundless….as with most of the complex projects Chicago Children's Museum, Krueck and Sexton, architectsI have been a part of, a good designer will use every opportunity, obstacle, new challenge, etc. to improve the design and I think the drawings clearly prove this. The current design appears to not only integrate the museum with the park flowing south better than any prior scheme, but it quite literally does not increase any profiles beyond that exist today. (Yes, the ‘towering’ entrance pavilion, while not now on park land, will be there, but any renovation of the garage and field house will require such a pavilion and the height will be necessary to accommodate current elevator standards. Regardless, the K+S pavilion will appear as a jewel particularly compared with the Exelon behemoths, and the Harris Theater precast block.)

So, what really is the problem? Is there really such a consensus city-wide that the K+S design is going to destroy Daley Bi? That strictly architecturally speaking, somehow all of the delight of the existing conditions, whatever that may be, will be lost forever?

Or rather, it is really about legal precedent, new users to the park, traffic fears, power and politics?

Six Reasons the Chicago Children's Museum doesn't belong at Daley Bicentennial Plaza in Grant Park.

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