Evening In The Park...

Last night, I partook in one of my annual Chicago summer rituals: catching a live music performance at Millennium Park. In the past, I have seen the Decemberists, and my favorite solo musician, Andrew Bird. This year, nothing on the schedule caught my eye, and I had gone the whole summer without heading over to Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion to listen to a concert. Then, while enjoying an after-work cup of tea with Lauren earlier in the week, she invited me to go to the park to catch a performance of the "Stars of the Lyric Opera." I wasn't busy, so I agreed to go, despite not being much of an opera fan.

I liked the performance just fine, but it turns out that Lauren is a huge opera-phile, and she loved the show. I think her enthusiasm was an important factor in magnifying my own enjoyment. I'm not sure I would have liked it even as much as I did if it hasn't been for her infectious sense of joy.

For me, the best part of the evening was the chance to see the special pavilions installed in the park in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago. The installation consists of a curvilinear structure by British architecture firm, Zaha Hadid, and a free-form, roofed structure by Dutch architects UNStudio.

The Zaha Hadid pavilion is in the foreground, and the UNStudio structure is behind it.

The Zaha Hadid pavilion was constructed from fabric stretched over a recyclable aluminum frame, and like a giant screen, they project films about the future of public planning in Chicago on the interior.

The inside of it had an unusual perforated roof, designed to give a glimpse of the skyline. It made me feel like I was inside of a whale.

Lauren and I, outside of the Zaha Hadid Pavilion.

I couldn't resist snapping a photo with the skyline in the background, and apparently, neither could the guy with the cell phone camera.

The pavilions are open all day to the public, but they are particularly spectacular at night, when they are illuminated with a shifting palette of colors. I liked the Zaha Hadid pavilion much better; to me, the UNStudio pavilion seemed more like a piece of public sculpture, as opposed to an interesting vision of what the future of architecture has in store. In my opinion, the form, the construction, and the interactivity of the Zaha Hadid pavilion were all more innovative.

The opera might not have been my cup of tea, but I was glad to spend the time with my friend, and to have an excuse to be in the park after dark. I might not get the appeal of the opera, but avant-garde architecture exhibitions are much more my speed...

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