Just When You Thought Going to Ravinia Couldn’t Get Any Better…

With summer here, it’s time to think about hopping on a Metra train and making the annual pilgrimage to Ravinia to soak up some culture.  For some, that means the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  For others it’s ZZ Top reminding us all that “every girl crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.”

The last time we were there was to see A Prairie Home Companion.  Garrison Keillor gliding through an audience spinning tales of passive aggressive Lutheran hotdish feuds in the creeping darkness of summer twilight is about as upper midwest as it gets.

This year, whether you go to hear Roger Daltrey’s prog rock canon, or the CSO’s 1812 Overture punctuated with actual cannons, you’ll want to check out the dining pavilion.

Ravinia Dining Pavilion (Courtesy of Wight & Company)

Ravinia Dining Pavilion (Courtesy of Wight & Company)

The 43,000-square-foot building is newly renovated to a design by Michael Barnes of the West Loop’s Wight & Company.  Downstairs, the provisions market has been reconfigured to add more hot food options, the Festival Shop has been almost doubled in size, and there’s a new Lawn Bar with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Upstairs, the Park View restaurant is joined by a new Tree Top restaurant.  Naturally, both offer outdoor seating.

Press release with more information follows the pictures.


Wight & Company Plays “Maestro” for Ravinia Dining Pavilion Renovation

Chicago’s most popular North Shore outdoor performance venue expands dining offerings and indoor/outdoor seating

CHICAGO — Construction is complete on the renovated and expanded Ravinia Dining Pavilion, the first of a two-phase project overseen by Chicago-based architecture firm Wight & Company. The dining pavilion at the popular Ravinia Festival performance venue in Highland Park, Ill., includes a new second-level al fresco outdoor dining area, which increases the outdoor seating capacity for patrons without adding to the building’s current 43,000 square feet of space.

“Ravinia sought to build upon the success of its dining pavilion and enhance what it offers patrons, but without changing the structure’s footprint,” said Michael Barnes, AIA, LEED AP, design principal for the project at Wight & Company, who also handled the design of the building when it was first constructed in 2007. “It was both a challenge and a unique opportunity to simultaneously increase the use of the building while still retaining harmony with its surroundings through a design that works with the original architecture as a result of its use of similar materials and form elements. The updated design also complements the original with its organically inspired terrace canopies and more open and welcoming interior spaces.”

The first floor of the redesigned building now includes the new Lawn Bar, which offers indoor and outdoor seating. Large glass panels provide a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor spaces and make it open to walk-by traffic. The expanded Festival Shop, which sells gifts and picnic gear, is now almost double in size, and the Ravinia Market has also been expanded. Wight reconfigured the Ravinia Market to increase the number of hot food stations to complement its traditional grab-and-go items for picnics on the lawn.

On the second floor, both the existing Park View restaurant and the new Tree Top restaurant offer covered outdoor seating for al fresco dining. The Tree Top was created out of underutilized banquet space.

The entire dining pavilion is run by Levy Restaurants and overseen by Michael Tstonton, the new executive chef at Ravinia. In its role as architect of record and lead architect, Wight & Company worked with hospitality design firm Knauer and with Studio Agoos Lovera, which consulted on the gift shop design.

According to Barnes, the dining pavilion’s new design is sensitive to Ravinia’s natural setting – a highly appealing attribute of the venue, which draws approximately 15,000 patrons per concert. The pronounced layered steps in the dining pavilion’s façade and the use of natural materials and transparency connect the interior of the building to the festival grounds, allowing for extensive views of the landscape and concert activities. Aside from glass, the other material on the façade is weather-treated mahogany, chosen for its warm color and sympathetic relationship with the surrounding landscape.

“Even the most successful restaurants must refresh to remain enticing as trends and tastes change, and when it came time to rejuvenate Ravinia’s Dining Pavilion, there was no question that we would turn to architect Michael Barnes of Wight & Company, who designed our original 2007 building with the legendary Dirk Lohan. While keeping with the elegance and grace of his original design, Michael created flourishes that make the building feel brand new as he expanded our spaces for an inviting indoor/outdoor breeziness that will let our guests make the most of Chicago’s short and treasured summer season,” said Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman. “Like Ravinia itself, Michael’s updated building is a very clever combination of the refined and the casual.”

In the second phase of the dining pavilion’s renovation, Wight & Company will focus on incorporating a new space to house The Music Experience, a multimedia experience and exhibit venue intended to increase awareness and appreciation of classical music. This 20,000-square-foot, two-story addition will connect to the dining pavilion’s second level and offer extra rooftop bar space.

Working with exhibit designers BRC Imagination Arts, the team at Wight & Company created a design that accommodates The Music Experience’s multiple audiences – from patrons touring the exhibits before concerts to school and other large groups visiting in the off-season. Construction on The Music Experience will begin after the 2018 performance season ends and will be completed for opening at the beginning of the 2019 season.

Location: 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park

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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