This park of the future rose out of a relic of the past.
The city excavated the site of an old railway yard and built the park over an underground garage.
"We turned an eyesore into a tour de force of art and architecture," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley at the opening ceremony.
Blair Kamin, architecture critic for The Chicago Tribune, says, "It's really a park about the future. It's like walking into the future."
"You don't really so much look at nature in this park. You look at the objects," he says. "This huge eruption of metal. That enormous jellybean. These tower-like fountains."
- The highlights of the park include:
- The Crown Fountain The faces of 1,000 Chicagoans were photographed for Spanish sculptor Juame Plensa's Crown Fountain. The images are projected on two giant LCD screens that buttress the water.
- The Bean Folks literally can't keep their hands off sculptor Anish Kapoor's giant archway to the skies.
This is one of the largest installations of public art in the world," says Kamin. "But also, it's fabulous because it weighs 110 tons, but it just tantalizingly touches the ground."
"And I can't reach up and touch the sky," he adds. "But that sculpture brings the sky right down where I can just touch the untouchable. It's fantastic."
Kapoor named his work "Cloud Gate," but most folks just call it the Bean - as in jellybean.
- Pritzker Pavilion For fans of form and function, there's this: The Pritzker Pavilion, home to free concerts. It was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.
"Look at this thing. This is two football fields long by a football field wide," says Kamin. "And what's really great about this is that the people in those red seats and the people on this lawn are all in one single space."
"This is a symbol of democracy, a symbol of togetherness. The person all the way at the back can hear the concert as well as the person all the way up in the front."
"There is a magical relationship between audience and performer," says Gehry. "Here it's 15,000 people, so it's pretty hard to get the last guy to feel like he's part of the thing. It needed to feel big enough that the people in the back row felt that they were part. It needed to engage them."
- Footbridge Gehry also designed a footbridge. "Well, what's special about this bridge is that it's a bridge to nowhere. I mean people come on this bridge and they walk across and they stop and they come right back," says Kamin.
"The big deal was, it wasn't going to cost taxpayers a dime. It was going to be paid all through parking revenues... And the mayor literally said it would be no cost to taxpayers," said Liam Ford, who covers politics for The Chicago Tribune. "It cost taxpayers $100 million."
And there's that other numbers problem. Millennium Park opened four years after the millennium.
"They started the project in '98, they wanted to get it done for the millennium in 2000.... So, they started building it before they had the plans finished," says Ford. "And the costs just kept going up and up as they added more things.... And it just spiraled out of control."
The rush to the millennium finish line led to structural mistakes and construction mistakes. Costs, in turn, swelled to $475 million, more than triple the original estimate.
Still, to most Chicagoans, the result is priceless.
"It's like the Eiffel Tower of Chicago," says one park patron.