▶ Better Than a Parking Lot, But Is This the Museum Chicago’s Looking For?


The people behind the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art have released their vision of a new lakefront home.  The controversial museum would be located near Soldier Field in the Chicago’s Museum Campus.  Preservationists see the construction of any new structure along the city’s downtown shoreline as an affront, pushing instead to protect the surface parking lot which currently occupies the site.

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

The early drawings of public buildings like this are usually different than what gets built, so we’ll reserve judgement until we hear someone tell us this design by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects is set in carbonite.  One random Chicagoan who looked over my shoulder while I was writing this and asked what it is responded with, “What? Behind the tent?”

Chicago’s Jeanne Gang is working on the landscape design, including a nearby pedestrian bridge.  Drawings of that portion of the project have not yet been made public.

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

The museum describes the design in the text below, and Mr. Ma talks about his vision for the museum in the video above.

The architectural concept for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art explores the relationship between nature and the urban environment. Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, the design integrates the natural beauty of the park and Lake Michigan with the powerful man-made architecture of Chicago. The design furthers the Museum’s mission to be a place of education, culture, and inspiration.

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

Lucas Museum drawing, courtesy of MAD Architects

The Lucas Museum design is both futuristic and timeless. Its continuous, undulating organic surface blurs the line between structure and landscape. As the harbor rises up to the land, it merges with stone surfaces that reach up to the sky and ultimately crescendo into a “floating” disc. The Museum is not an isolated object, but a spatial experience that is defined by the people who occupy it and interact with it. Its organic surface is made of a single material, a stone as primitive as it is futuristic, evoking the great achievements of architectural history. It is a place to discover and explore, to communicate and contemplate. More than a building, it is an urban vista for social interaction, bringing people closer to each other and to nature.

The tallest points of the Lucas Museum will feature an observation deck with 360-degree views, providing visitors with stunning panoramas of both Chicago and Lake Michigan. Inside, three levels of exhibition space in infinite loops will inspire the imagination to ponder endless possibilities, both in content and design.

The design for the Lucas Museum mirrors the objective of the artwork inside: It tells a story. The narrative ushers in the future of architectural design, exploring the relationship between man and nature. Its iconic design aspires to join the ranks of Chicago’s many cherished landmarks.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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  1. Looks great… The organic design may be different, but it complements the lake and Soldier Field nicely.

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  2. It’s fine, but I’m in the camp that finds it boring.
    The 2000s brought lots of white blobitecture. It was supposed to be bold and daring, but now, it’s unoriginal and uninteresting.
    Lucas is saying this will be like no museum before it (and warned Emanuel the same about the architecute), yet this design doesn’t show that. It’s pretty generic, and isn’t a statement of beauty so much as a half-hearted attempt to be different and “bold.” I find it very uninspiring.
    The massing really diminishes its presence, too; my eyes sort of tune it out.
    We’ll see, but Chicago deserves more integrity than this. Especially after Bailey’s villainous quote.

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  3. I’m glad Lucas is bringing the museum to Chicago but that building is an eyesore. It looks like the doodle of a child. I’m sure it would be covered in dingy streaks in no time. They can do better

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