The Empire Strikes Back: Lucas Museum Returning To Chicago

After losing a hard-fought battle to land his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in the Windy City, Hollywood Director George Lucas has unveiled what can only be considered “Plan D” — another attempt to build his showpiece legacy in Chicago. Or at least near Chicago.

You’ll remember that Plan A was to build the Lucas Museum in San Francisco, but the visionary behind such motion picture staples as American Graffiti and Star Wars could not come to an agreement with the Presidio Trust to build on a parking lot at Crissy Field.

Plan B was another parking lot move: The egg-shaped surface lot just south of Solider Field. The building would have resembled a futuristic circus tent, intended to pay homage to the waves and dunes of nearby Lake Michigan. That plan was scuttled by NIMBY group Friends of the Parking Lots.

Plan C was announced just three months ago — a plan to replace two surface parking lots at Exposition Park in Los Angeles with a revamped, but still futuristic-looking, building. While Los Angeles initially welcomed Mr. Lucas home with open arms, the cost of environmental compliance in California has reportedly forced the Lucas Foundation to give Chicago a rather clever second chance.

This time around, Mr. Lucas has given up his parking lot vendetta, and will focus on a location that allows him to bypass meddling neighborhood groups, the Chicago City Council, and anyone else who cares to say “nay” to his dream.

He’s going offshore.

Rendering of the Lucas Museum of Narrative and Maritime Art (Courtesy of Ümlaut Architects)

Rendering of the Lucas Museum of Narrative and Maritime Art (Courtesy of Ümlaut Architects)

The newly rebranded Lucas Museum for the Narrative and Maritime Arts will be built on a platform just off the coast of Chicago. Its design will be a combination of the Los Angeles plan’s sinuous curves, and the former Chicago plan’s sloping peak. Except instead of being set in a sea of green park land, the Lucas Museum will be set in an actual sea of blue-green lake water. The Michigan City News-Dispatch quoted Mace Windu of the Belgian architecture house ÜMLAUT describing the museum as, “similar to Tipoca City [from The Empire Strikes Back], but right-sized by our human cloud’s charettes so that we can leverage generative design algorithms in a way that the entire program language becomes energy-positive.”

Others from the Lucas camp chose to speak English.

“This time instead of being part of Chicago’s skyline, we have the best view of the skyline from just a short distance away,” predicted Lucas representative Berch Teller.

The reason the new museum plan quietly made its debut at the Michigan City, Indiana city council meeting last week is because the platform structure will be just over two miles from Northerly Island, putting it several feet over the state line, and outside the reach of the obstructionist politicians and pundits of Illinois, Cook County, and Chicago.

Diagram showing the positioning of the Lucas Museum of Narrative and Maritime Art (Courtesy of Ümlaut Architects)

Diagram showing the positioning of the Lucas Museum of Narrative and Maritime Art (Courtesy of Ümlaut Architects)

“Nothing can touch us,” quipped Teller. “I mean, we’ll still have to pay off the mob, but it’s the Michigan City mob. It’s not like it’s Cicero or something.”

The platform will be anchored to a shallow knob of limestone known to divers and tug boat captains as “Utapau” — a Kankakee word meaning “shallow knob of limestone.”

In compliance with President Trump’s new “Build America First” environmental directive, the Army Corps of Engineers has already approved the paperwork for the construction, electrification, and sewage discharge from the lake-bound museum platform.

“We look forward to adding this new aquatic tourist attraction to Michigan City’s already vibrant arts scene,” puffed Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer. “It is the perfect compliment to our already vibrant downtown outlet mall, and the antiques shop on Franklin Street that is open on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings during the summer.”

“This is the third piece of the puzzle that we’ve been looking for,” chirped Norra Wexley of the Northern Indiana Business Buddies Legislative Extension. “We envision Hollywood stars coming into Gary airport on their private jets, visiting the island museum, and then staying at the Blue Chip Casino, Indiana’s largest riverboat casino!”

“Highway 20 between the airport and downtown [Michigan City] is known around the world for its abundant selection of home-made baked goods, wildflower honey, and sweet corn, available at any number of rusted out pick-up trucks,” added LaPorte County Agriculture Commissioner Max Veers. “I can’t wait to see Brad Pitt loading up on boysenberry pies to bring back to Angie and the kids.”

Local politicians seem eager to get the project underway, calling for an ambitious 2022 opening date. Coincidentally, a disused Royal Dutch/Shell North Sea oil drilling platform was recently auctioned off on eBay for just under one million dollars to someone using the name HoozierBildr36.

When it is complete, initial access will be provided by a new Michigan City municipal ferry. The M/V Falcon used to make the run from Milwaukee’s Festival Park to Toronto’s Kessel Marina, but the route was scuttled because few people wanted to make the 12-day journey.

Teller says the long-range plans include specially modified Zodiac boats outfitted to look like Land Speeders that skim across the water from Navy Pier to the museum. “If Chicago loves its parking lots so much, let them deal with the cars. We’ll take the tourists.”

Author: Editor

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

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