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Playing Piano

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 27, 2006 4:18PM

artinstitute.jpgSince “Project Runway” didn’t start till nine; we decided to do something educational to pass the time. We traipsed our hot, sweating, rear-ends over to the Chicago Architecture Foundation to hear Meredith Mack, VP of Finance and Operations of the Art Institute, discuss its new addition.

And man, it was almost better than the Runway. Almost.

The new wing, designed by Renzo Piano, will (hopefully) be finished in Spring, 2009. The three floor building is clad in glass, steel and limestone. The limestone refers back to the original, historic Art Institute; while the glass curtain-walls give it a shiny, new, modern feel. The north wing will house the museum’s Modern collection, as well as its photography and architecture collection.

One of the most outstanding features of the new building is its “flying carpet”. Designing for art museums raises a few problems; like how to deal with natural light so it won’t damage the paintings. Piano has attacked this problem by adding a “flying carpet” to the roof of the building. The carpet sits about seven feet off of the roof and has white blades that filter out 99% of natural light. Underneath the carpet are skylights, and underneath that is a sheer, white scrim. This gives the galleries a light, airy and natural feel, while still protecting the valuable pieces.

There will also be a bridge connecting the Art Institute to Millennium Park. This “blade” bridge will contrast with the snaking BP Bridge; making a straight, clear-span, inclined shot from the south end of the Great Lawn, to a second floor sculpture pavilion and dining area (both open to the public without entering the museum).

The $258 million, 264 thousand square-foot addition is privately funded, and the museum has already raised more than half of the cost.

Oh, and one more thing? Don’t worry; the Sullivan Arch isn’t going anywhere.