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Lucas Museum Names Two Architects For Lakefront Site

By Todd Feurer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Filmmaker George Lucas has selected two world-renowned architects to design his lakefront museum in Chicago.

Chicago architect Jeanne Gang and China's Ma Yansong have been picked to design the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which has been planned as an addition to the Museum Campus just south of Grant Park.

"We are bringing together some of the top architects in the world to ensure that our museum experience begins long before a visitor ever enters the building," Lucas said in a statement on the museum's website. "I am thrilled with the architectural team's vision for the building and the surrounding green space. I look forward to presenting our design to the Chicago community."

Ma will design the overall concept of the museum; while Gang will design the landscaping, and a pedestrian bridge linking the Museum Campus to Northerly Island. Gang, a MacArthur Fellow, has helped design the transformation of Northerly Island from a lakefront airport into a nature preserve – a project that is still underway.

"We are excited to build upon our current work and collaborate to create a seamless transition between the Museum Campus and Northerly Island," Gang said. "In keeping with the Northerly Island ethos, our design goal will be to create a combined ecological and urban habitat."

Exactly what the collaboration of Ma and Gang will yield is hard to predict. School of the Art Institute Chicago Professor Pete Exley thinks it will be another iconic civic treasure.

"It's within the Burnham Plan, these magnificent parks that we have, Millennium Park, Grant Park, it's all part of the plan," Exley said.

The museum will feature selections from the film-maker's collection more than 500,000 pieces of art and movie memorabilia. The museum would focus on digital design, filmmaking, animation, and his love of art, especially Norman Rockwell.

Lucas selected Chicago as the home for his museum after a blue-ribbon panel selected by Mayor Rahm Emanuel recommended he build it on the site of what is now a pair of parking lots between Soldier Field and McCormick Place. The lots would be replaced with an underground garage.

Ma is famous for a pair of curving towers in suburban Toronto, nicknamed as the Marilyn Monroe Towers, because they're said to resemble her famous hourglass figure.

Gang's most famous project is the Aqua Tower at 225 N. Columbus Dr., an 82-story condo and hotel building designed to look like waves.

Open space advocates have threatened to sue the city to block the museum plan, claiming the site selected between Soldier Field and McCormick Place is a violation of the city's Lakefront Protection Ordinance, which prohibits further private development east of Lake Shore Drive.

The existing buildings on the Museum Campus -- including the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, Soldier Field, and McCormick Place's Lakeside Center -- all were built before the lakefront protection ordinance barred anymore private development east of Lake Shore Drive, though Soldier Field underwent a major renovation in 2003.

The Friends of the Parks said they support bringing the Lucas Museum to Chicago, just not on existing park land or other open public space.

In a statement Monday afternoon, the group said they, "celebrates the selection of such fine architects ....and believe that this selection will open the door to a more nuanced and thoughtful consideration of alternative sites that are not on our prized public lakefront."

The group has suggested the museum instead be built at the old Michael Reese Hospital site at 2900 S. Ellis Av., which would fulfill Lucas' wish of a lakefront view, while keeping the museum west of Lake Shore Drive.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has defended the existing plan for the museum.

"Their recommendation is very thoughtful and a fitting site for the type of museum and educational partner the city of Chicago is looking for and would complete our museum campus, which is world-class and brings people from all over the world," said Emanuel.

The Lucas Museum is slated to open in 2018. The museum foundation has said designs will be released later this year.

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