Friday, November 14, 2014

Could Lucas museum be Chicago lakefront’s ultimate defilement?

There is a certain generation of Chicagoans who believe the McCormick Place convention center is a monstrosity that permanently defiled the beauty of the city’s portion of the Lake Michigan shoreline.

It’s big. It’s bulky. It got built in so many pieces throughout the years that there isn’t an architectural consistency to the entire complex.

IT CERTAINLY CLASHES with the Burnham plan of the early 20th Century that was supposed to encourage urban development in Chicago that would not interfere with the natural beauty of being a city right on the Great Lakes.

But it got done, and we have to live with it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m of a generation that thinks in terms of McCormick Place having always just “been there.” It doesn’t make me ill because it just seems hard to envision the site open to anything else.

Which apparently is what those who prepared the preliminary design for that George Lucas museum that may someday be built in Chicago are thinking about.

When I saw the sketches of what that structure will supposedly look like (with the downtown skyline in the distance and the futuristic-like Soldier Field within sight), I couldn’t help but think the structure looks ridiculous.

TOTALLY OUT OF place. As in no way that thing should ever be built on that site, or any site along the lakefront. As in perhaps I’m sympathetic to the lawsuit filed Thursday by the Friends of the Parks organization in U.S. District Court to stop development of the project.

But perhaps future generations will just sort of accept that it’s there, and not give it any thought before they check out the assorted artifacts that will wind up on display in such a museum.

My own thoughts about the sketches I saw was that the structure looked like a giant pile of sand along the lakeshore, with some sort of ring casually placed on top. Giant, as in seven stories high – with that ring being an observation deck where people can check out Chicago from up high, like they already do by traveling up to the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower (forget that Willis nonsense, I’d sooner call it the “Arnold” building).

Almost as though a giant baby was using our public beach as his personal sandbox and built sand “castles” that were nothing more than the content of a bucket turned upside down.

YOU HUMOR THE youngster for making a nice pile, but it’s not anything permanently lasting. So why should we think this design that would defile the lakefront’s appearance is worth any praise?

Now I know that Lucas has knocked down the public impression that this is a museum devoted to his “Star Wars” films – saying it will be much more about pop culture throughout our society.

Yet it almost looks like somebody’s reject of a Star Wars set – and I’m not alone in thinking that. Both 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly and 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti made similar comments.

With the would-be mayoral dreamer Fioretti saying it looked to him like the Jabba the Hut character’s palace. Does this mean we’ll have a Carrie Fisher lookalike walking around in that skimpy gold-bikini-like outfit worn in “Return of the Jedi?”

I’M NOT BOTHERED by the idea of some sort of Lucas-inspired museum being in Chicago. I just would like to see a bit more inspiration put into its design. Or else this would literally be nothing more than the gap-filler in a stretch of tackiness started by the current incarnation of Soldier Field stretching down to McCormick Place.

Although perhaps we should feel lucky that one of the most absurd ideas for a lakefront development never got done – that dream of then-Mayor Richard J. Daley in the 1960s for a multi-purpose sports stadium to be built on a man-made island IN Lake Michigan proper.

It may have looked inspired on a drawing board.

But just think of how much frustration Chicago White Sox and Cubs fans, along with Bears fanatics, would have felt trying to navigate to such a structure on game days. Then getting caught in a ridiculous traffic jam after watching our city’s typically pathetic ball clubs lose yet again!


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