The bean Chicago is one of the most notable architectural marvels. The Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as ‘the Bean,’ is one of the top things to see in Chicago. It now serves as a famous symbol of Chicago and is one of the city’s most photographed attractions. We will walk you through the 10 facts about this place so that you can climb up to the Giant’s condo.
Table of Contents
A Little History about The Bean
Architects' Visions for Millennium Park
The Bean Chicago at Night
Parking Info Near The Bean
A Little History about The Bean
Well, the bean which we all love to call is just a pet name given to the bean-like structure. The official name tagged to it is ‘Cloud Gate.’ Located in the Millennium Park, it is placed conveniently as a centerpiece at AT&T plaza. The piece of architecture is made of stainless piece and has 168 of this welded together. Measuring a height, breadth, and length of 10 by 20 by 13 m, it weighs a total of 110 tons.
During the construction of the Millennium Park in 1999, several artists’ works were reviewed, and two of them were asked to submit a proposal for an artistic piece in the park. Later the Park officials decided to grant the project to Sir Anish Kapoor. The public sculpture was constructed in between the year 2004 and 2008 by the Indian born British artist. Cloud Gate could not be unveiled during the grand opening of the millennium park in the year 2004. It was officially welcomed into the skyline of Chicago in the year 2006.
The centerpiece was originally thought to be included in the Lurie Garden at the southwest corner of the park, but the proposal got rejected because it was considered too big a piece for that place. The name bean was also ridiculed by Anish, who thought the name was “stupid” but later accepted the idea of calling it bean as a nickname. The critiques gave several interpretations of the artwork, describing it as a connector or a gate between the sky and the viewer, calling it “a passage between the realms”. The reflection caused due to the shiny outer surface of the sculptor prompted this version. The Cloud Gate, which was also the first outdoor work of Kapoor, came to be known as one of his best work in the United States.
Architects' Visions for Millennium Park
The Millennium Park was proposed to celebrate the third Millennium and was created on the site where the Union Baseball Grounds existed, and part of the land was owned by the Illinois Central Rail board as well. After the playground where the Chicago White stockings once played was destroyed, there were several attempts to revive it, but it eventually ended up becoming a parking lot for the Grand Park. The parking facility was then dramatically redesigned as a master plan to create a civic amenity for gaining private dollars.
Thus, the municipality succeeded with the plan and established the park known today. The park lies in the north-western part of the Grand Park. It is considered the largest rooftop garden in the world located just above a parking garage and a commuter rail station called Millennium Station. The park is also connected to the other parts of the Grand Park through various bridges. The bean Chicago is the second most visited monument in the city within the park and regenerates a lot of revenue. The Millennium Park also has free entry, and you could spot other attractions there like the Crown Fountain, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Lurie Garden, apart from the bean Chicago. The city authorities with the architects had the vision to create a center where the city would be a part of the 21st century and add life to the city’s skyline.
Atelier One, a British engineering firm along with a freelance engineer Chris Hornzee, was involved in the structural design of the sculpture. Polyurethane, a high-density foam was used in the construction of the final structure of the bean Chicago and the interior as well. The parts were fabricated elsewhere, and the final assembling was done on the site. Inside the polished bean surface, there are several steel components reinforced to keep the overall structure standing. The piece of the structure has no inner bracing, has been designed in a way to avoid overloading the structure at any point. The frame also has the provision to expand and contract along with the exterior as the temperature changes.
Sir Anish Mikhail Kapoor is an Indian Born, British sculptor, and artist known for its clout in installation and conceptual art. Born in Bombay in the year 1954, he moved to London in the 1970s to study and work related to arts. Kapoor, also a Padma Bhushan Awardee, has been involved in projects like Ark Nova, Orbit, Dismemberment and many more. Alumni of the Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea College of Arts, he is the one whose artistic idea got granted to be conceptualized in the AT&T plaza in the form called the “Cloud Gate.”
He is widely recognized for his work and has a different approach for creating such monuments through various themes. The inspiration for the bean Chicago that he envisioned has been derived from the texture of mercury, and the surface is made in such a way to reflect light. Kapoor’s idea was to create an underside, also known as “omphalos (Greek for naval)” so that the visitors could walk around and be able to see the various reflections of the several towers and buildings in the surrounding created due to the concave chamber like architecture. Anish Kapoor likes to use his hand rather than computer software to design artifacts. This created a major setback for analyzing the entire structure and getting a concrete calculation to be sure about its technical correctness.
Anish Kapoor is known for creating works of various sizes and scale, by placing them in urban settings. He has worked extensively to null the boundary between the limit and the limitless. One of his previous works, called the Sky mirror, was the source of inspiration for him to create distorted images. He has been well known to conceptualize his artworks with spirituality and immateriality by the shine of the surface and the reflective nature of the object.
He has also used carving dark holes into small stone parts to achieve the same concept. He also uses theologies shared by many eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism to fill a gap in his illusionary space. Albert Einstein’s view of a non-three-dimensional world gives him the inspiration for the theme of ambiguity where the viewer could be stuck in the state of” in-betweenness.“ Anish Kapoor, through his art, has also projected a kind of tension between the feminine and masculine by using the points focus as the concave shape. You could stop the same if you are placed at a correct angle.
Best Spot for A Selfie
The bean Chicago is the perfect hotspot for taking photos due to the intriguing reflective properties found here. The buildings displayed behind you will certainly add another dimension to your photos. The stainless-steel entity will leave your jaws dropped when you walk under the belly of the bean Chicago as the views get more amazing here.
View of the Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue is what you need in your front camera. Please make sure not to touch the structure itself when taking a photo as fingerprints are not preferred on the shiny surface. The Bean Chicago has cleaners round the clock to keep the surface squeaky clean at all times so that reflections produce the best images.
The artifact has been used in many commercial films like The Break-up. It was also included in the last scenes of the movie Source code. It has been since used in many of the movies including a Bollywood movie called Dhoom 3.
Interior of The Bean
When the bean Chicago was initially in the design phase, there were several concerns as to what materials should be used to build the bean Chicago. The idea of using stainless steel was thought to be a bad idea because of the heat-absorbing properties of the same. The idea of getting it heated throughout the day, and getting it cooled throughout the night could have been devastating. So, the plan was made to get the inspiration from the old ships which were made of wood. The wooden framework would provide the necessary support when the outer support would shrink and expand. There was even an office inside the bean Chicago when it was in the construction phase. Bean Chicago’s outer surface was polished later to give the seamless finish of the bean Chicago which you can see today. There was also a statement by the team executing the project that the 168 odd pieces of the bean Chicago would stand strong till 3006, which is a millennium more years from today. The remains inside will surely be a time capsule for the future generation to explore.
Giant Rooftop Garden
The Millennium Park is a giant rooftop garden constructed above the railway tracks and a huge parking area. There is also a theater equipped with 1500 seats located just beneath the park. The base of the rooftop garden is made with a layer of 4 feet of topsoil coupled with several feet of Styrofoam to reduce the overall weight of the structure. The center of the park has the Jay Pritzker Pavilion where the annual Grant Park Music Festival happens. There are 11 other venues to choose from like the Crown Fountain, which has some animated faces of Chicagoans; the magnificent Lurie Garden spread across 5 acres designed by Gustafson Guthrie, Robert Israel. Piet Oudolf has entire vegetation with over 138 varieties of plants; McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink and the Park Grill; Wrigley Square with the Millennium Monument; Exelon Pavilions; McDonald’s Cycle Center; Harris Theater; Boeing Galleries; Chase Promenade; BP Pedestrian Bridge; and the Nichols Bridgeway. Millennium Park was awarded the 2006 Excellence in Irrigation Honor Award and many other awards for its green roofs and other innovations.
After you have taken an extensive tour of the Cloud Gate, you could head to the Lurie Garden to explore the never-ending varieties of flowers and plants. There are several performances which take place in the park itself from day today. You can always sit down there and watch the live performances by some of the recognized artists. Harris Theater is also available for leasing, and anyone could book the same. The prices start at from $400 and can go up to a few grands. Tired of exploring the galleries, feel free to take a shower at the Crown Fountain where you can find the Chicagoans faces spewing water.
Perfect Spot for Bikers
The bean Chicago is a perfect spot for you if you want to experience the place with a bike. Take a bike for rent and wander through the city and self-explore the bean Chicago along with the other parts of the park. Don’t forget to take a shower when you stop at the Maggie Daley Park near the fountain. Please remember to park your bike before you enter the bridge that connects the Daley Park because it is only a pedestrian-only bridge.
The bean Chicago graffiti
The shiny Chicago bean also attracts a lot of illegal graffiti arts and has seen many since its inception in the park. The graffiti has been removed time and again whenever the misconduct took place. If you visit there, remember not to carry your spray can as the police will be out for you.
By the way, did you know the bean is clean regularly with its initial 6 feet daily cleaned and the rest cleaned twice a year? If you knew it, don't trouble the cleaners.
The Bean Chicago at Night
Chicago bean promises not only the best views of Michigan Avenue during the day through its reflective surfaces but also the most mind-blowing views during the night hours. The skyline of the city could be seen soaked in the light coming out from the thousand windows of the skyscrapers. You could see the entire skyline bend in the most mischievous way to add a bohemian touch to the city. Hop on a bike after a tiring day and come straight here, as these views relax you as well.
Chicago’s beautiful Skyline along with the bean Chicago is what gives the city its life and all the energy. The bean Chicago is a must-visit for anyone coming to Chicago, Illinois.
Parking Info Near The Bean
You have several options to park your vehicle, once you enter the park for the Chicago bean. Parking spots could be booked online, and the price for the same starts from $3 to $11. The cheaper spots are usually far away from the location. Alternatively, you could also book a garage at very attractive prizes for keeping your car for a longer duration. To avoid the hassle of getting a parking spot at the park, you could always take advantage of the vast network of public transport. The Chicago Metra services are very affordable, and you could get down at the Millennium Park station to reach the park. The park is at walking distance from the Metra station.
If you feel that taking a crowded train is not always the best options, you have all the yellow taxis waiting for you. Don’t forget Uber was invented in this country, so your next Uber ride is just an app away from you. The city is also safe at night, so you have all the freedom to be at the park during the night hours.
The park remains open every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The best season to visit the park is during the spring or the summer holidays. It would also be better if you can come during the weekdays to avoid the crowd in here.
There’s a near-endless list of things to see and do here, and there’s something for everyone — nature lovers, art and architecture aficionados, kids and families, music buffs, fitness fiends, and more. Locals and visitors alike gather here to picnic in the grass, cool off in the fountain, catch-free concerts and movie screenings, and so much more throughout the year.