the Bean

over the weekend, I went to Chicago with my parents to  check out the Green Festival and after checking out the booths and speakers at Navy Pier, we opted to round out the day with a photo op at the “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park.

the sculpture was inspired by liquid mercury, as it distorts and reflects the city’s skyline as if it were a giant drop of mercury. it’s made up of 168 stainless steel panels welded together. Anish Kapoor’s designed was selected through a competition, though concerns about execution arose almost immediately. in particular, the weight of the sculpture had to be considered in the construction of the Park Grille, atop which the Bean sits. on the underside is an omphalos (indentation), that distorts and multiplies images of the underside of the Bean. the apex of the omphalos is 27 feet off the ground, or 15 feet from the apex of the exterior of the structure. (it’s dimensions are 33 ft x 42 ft x 66 ft.) the incomplete sculpture was unveiled at the opening of Millennium Park in 2004, but it was then re-covered while construction (mostly polishing) was completed. it was formally dedicated two years later, and has since become a major tourist destination and photo op.

we’re the group of three in the middle of the reflection near the back.


92 degrees and 92 percent humidity

a couple of summers a go (the one before I moved to San Diego, in fact), I didn’t have what one could constitute “full-time” employment, or even “consistent” employment. something to do with the fact that in two and a half months time I’d be pulling up roots and heading to the warmer climes of sunny San Diego for grad school. no job = no money = no grand traveling adventures. or does it? perhaps I couldn’t coordinate something on same scale that I normally dream of, but, I concluded, no money certainly mustn’t mean no travel, let alone not trying something new!
to begin, I took the bus from Madison to downtown Chicago, thus beginning my experiment at the whims of public transportation (or a public-private hybrid, if you will). after some sweltering outdoor activities in the morning, I met up with a college friend and, since I’d only ever been up to the observation deck in the Sears Tower before, decided to head farther up Michigan Ave to the Hancock Building (which is also slightly cheaper).
the Hancock Building is the 4th tallest skyscraper in Chicago, a city know by some as the birthplace of skyscrapers. located on the site of Cap Streeter‘s 19th century steamboat shanty (in brief — Cap Streeter lied, cheated, and forged documents to make money off of the expansion of Chicago into Lake Michigan; landfill dumping produced an additional 186 acres of land extending east of where Michigan Ave is today), construction of the building posed some unique challenges. namely, caissons had to be sunk into 10ft holes drilled 190ft into bedrock to ensure stability of the foundation. the design also all but eliminated the need for internal support beams — the famous X-bracing seen above serves as a kind of skin to hold the structure up. it took 5 million man-hours to construct the building, which was completed in 1970 and, at the time, was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City. the building stands 100 storys and, until recently, could claim the highest residence in the world (it’s recently lost out to the Trump Tower in Chicago and the Burj Khalifa). because of the mixed-use plan for the building, with residences on the top levels, the structure is wedge-shaped (which also makes it look taller than it actually is). Chris Farley lived on the 60th floor and was found dead there in 1997 (his one-time neighbor, Jerry Springer, has since relocated to the 91st floor). including the height from antennas, the the Hancock Tower is listed at 1,500 feet tall, making it the 5th tallest building in the world (following the Burj Khalifa, Sears Tower, Shanghai World Financial Tower, and Taipei 101).
the observation deck is on the 94th floor of the building and a restaurant occupies the 95th floor (currently the Signature Room). elevators will take you to the deck at a speed of 20.5 mph. the weather in Chicago on the day that I visited (in late July) was hot and humid. from the top of the Hancock building, you could see loads of people out on the beaches along Lake Shore Drive, and clumping up together in boat parties north of Navy Pier. we also caught a glimpse of people lounging beside a rooftop pool of one of the residential buildings to the southeast of the Hancock Building. wonder if those people think about how many tourists will spot them on their lounge chairs when they head up to the roof for a session in the sun …
more on the John Hancock building from Wikipedia, and from the Observatory’s website.