November 14, 2014

Lucas Museum designs released, spark controversy

The addition of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art could make Museum Campus a force to be reckoned with. Opponents of the museum, however, argue that the museum design has a dark side, and have filed a lawsuit to stop its development.

The preliminary design for the new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, to be located just south of Soldier Field on Lake Michigan, was revealed after a city council meeting earlier this month.

The museum, conceived and funded by filmmaker and Star Wars creator George Lucas, will present narrative art and the evolution of moving picture, including illustrations, cinema, and the digital mediums of the future. The 400,000 square-foot building is scheduled for completion in 2016. It is estimated to cost $300 million.

The design for the building comes from the Beijing-based firm MAD Architects, led by Ma Yansong. A bridge, designed by Chicago-based firm Studio Gang Architects, led by Jeanne Gang, will also connect the museum to Northerly Island, a man-made peninsula along the city’s lakefront.

The plans for the museum are still in the early stages. The Lucas Museum’s website lauded it as an example of innovative architecture: “Its continuous, undulating organic surface blurs the line between structure and landscape…its organic surface is made of a single material, a stone as primitive as it is futuristic.”

Opponents, however, argue that there is a downside to the museum design, that it will not integrate with the rest of the architecture and the lakefront that surrounds it, and that it will be an eyesore to the Chicago lakefront. Friends of the Parks, an advocacy group for parks and the protection of open space, told the Chicago Tribune that the building is an "amorphous, land-eating colossus."

The group has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Parks District in the federal courts. It argues that because the location was once a part of Lake Michigan before being filled in, the site of the future museum is a specially protected waterway, and therefore falls under the public trust doctrine. States are required to preserve such sites for natural resources and for public access. As a result, the city needs approval from the state before moving forward with its plans.