MAD Architects, the Chinese designers known for their organically curving buildings from Inner Mongolia to Canada, will work with two local firms—including Studio Gang Architects—to bring filmmaker George Lucas’ new Chicago museum to life.
MAD will design the building, while Studio Gang Architects will provide landscape work—an integral part of the lakefront site—and VOA Associates will be the architect of record, said officials for the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Monday.
The Chicago Tribune first reported the story, with Blair Kamin calling “the star-studded team … a surprise given Lucas’ penchant for traditional designs.” Many also called Lucas’ choice of Chicago for the museum, over other West Coast options, surprising.
The Star Wars creator’s museum is currently targeting a lakefront site between Soldier Field and the McCormick Place convention center. It would take the place of two surface parking lots, replacing those spots and then some with parking below grade.
But that proposal is currently facing a challenge from lakefront advocates, who point to a city ordinance forbidding private development east of Lake Shore Drive. Their qualm may carry legal weight if Lucas doesn’t hand over the museum, in which he is expected to pour $700 million of his money, to the city’s park district upon completion.
At any rate, the involvement of MAD’s Ma Yansong and Studio Gang’s Jeanne Gang is likely to produce memorable architecture for the new museum, which will house movie memorabilia and selections from Lucas’ extensive art collection. Yansong’s work includes the Ordos Museum, an otherworldly blob in the deserts of Inner Mongolia, and Ontario’s Absolute Towers—sculptural, round apartment towers that have been dubbed the “Marilyn Monroe Towers” after the curvaceous actress. That style seems in keeping with Gang’s own tastes, which tend toward organic forms and eye-grabbing designs. VOA has designed offices for Ariel Investments, a company led by Lucas’ wife Mellody Hobson.
Lucas has also pledged to help fund an $18 million pedestrian bridge at 35th Street to improve access to the site.
The museum is expected to open in 2018.Absolute Towers in Mississauga, Ontario, by MAD Architects. (Tom Arban)