BP Bridge - Millennium Park
by: chicago designslinger
[BP Bridge - Millennium Park (2004) Frank Gehry, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
It's been called the bridge to nowhere. Even architect Renzo Piano, designer of the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing was quoted as saying that the snake-like overpass went from "somewhere to nowhere." The "somewhere" he was referring to was Millennium Park, while the "nowhere" he mentions is the rather forlorn and forgotten section of Grant Park known as Daley Bicentennial Plaza. But back to the bridge, architect Frank Gehry's 900+ feet of winding stainless-steel-scaled pathway is part pedestrian walkway and part sound barrier as it crosses over the tunnel-like, concrete-walled and very noisy, 8-lane Columbus Drive. As well as taking an stab at trying to join the gleaming new $475 million Millennium experience with the its older, aging, Bicentennial-era sibling.
[BP Bridge - Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Gehry's bridge is a part and parcel of his much more prominently displayed music pavilion. When asked to add the bridge to his design, he saw an opportunity to not only link two pieces of park real estate but to also provide a buffer between the traffic noise generated by adjacent Columbus Drive and the ears of the concert going public. Then there was the problem of traversing the gash-cutting roadway.
[BP Bridge- Millennium Park, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Not only was the challenge to bridge the gap, but the pedestrian path also had to be handicap accessible, which meant that the slope had to be gentle enough for someone in a wheelchair to easily maneuver the incline. Gehry's solution was to wind the structure over the Columbus trench like a snake winding its way across the landscape. Without its twists and curves, the 975 feet of gently sloping overpass would have stretched in a straight line from the edge of the pavilion to the far end of nearby Lake Shore Drive.
[BP Bridge - Millennium Park, Grant Park, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Park patrons made their first crossing in July, 2004 when the park officially opened. After being enthralled by the wonder of Gehry's molded forms, anyone curious enough to wander across the enticing curvilinear span often found themselves disappointed when they exited at the other end. The 1970s-era Daley Bicentennial Plaza and its cheerless but well used skating rink, was somewhat of a let-down after the splendor of the park across-the-way. But all that is about to change. In December, 2011 the city announced that a facelift was in the works to be overseen by New York-based, landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. The estimated 2015 reveal of North Grant Park's sinuous 20-acre landscape may provide park goers with a much more complimentary experience to Gehry's seductive, undulating forms.