Building an Icon: Construction Photographs of Millennium Park at the Harold Washington Library

by Jared Weiss


Cloud Gate, computer rendering of proposed sculpture, ca. 1999

Ever wonder how "The Bean" (colloquialism for Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate) was built? An exhibit at the Harold Washington Library divulges not only into photographs of it's construction but also many other Millenium Park Attractions; among them Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain (you know, the big faces that stare and stare until they deem it appropriate to spit water at you), and Frank Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavilion and BP Pedestrian Bridge.

The Library's show, "Building an Icon: Construction Photographs of Millennium Park" opened September 26th and will run until January 17, 2010, in the Congress Corridor on the Library's first floor. The exhibition is also in conjunction with an extensive digital library of almost every conceivable process photo taken while building Millennium Park. It can be found here ( or by going to the library's website and clicking "Digital Collections".


Crown Fountain, early Jaume Plensa sketchbook drawing, ca. 2000

I remember a few weeks ago while friends were visiting from out of town I took them to Grant and Millennium Park to show them around. We all started wondering out loud how The Bean was built. We thought for sure it had to be constructed as a single cast piece because there aren't any seams. It's all shiny, perfect reflections. As the photos show, we were wrong. It's actually made of rolled stainless steel plates that are welded together and polished to an immaculate finish.

For anyone who loves process or likes to find how things were made, this exhibition (or digital archive) adds a layer of "aha". We can always enhance the experience of a place by granting a more thorough view and understanding of how it came to be. Structure, support, background. Aha.

























All Photos Courtesy of U.S. Equities Realty and the men and women who built Millennium Park.



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  • I'm adding more picutures.

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