Lucas Museum reboot still draws mixed reactions

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Renderings released this week of a revised plan for the museum George Lucas wants to build along the lakefront show more green space but a building that is little changed from the polarizing design unveiled last year. | Photo provided by Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, distributed by the Associated Press

A smaller, softer-edged shape for the lakefront museum some have branded a gaudy, land-gobbling eyesore.

But will the revamped design for movie mogul George Lucas’ art and movie museum — released this week — quiet some of that criticism?

“The new design doesn’t change Friends of the Parks’ position,” said Lauren Moltz, interim executive director of Friends of the Parks, which has filed suit to block the museum on the lakefront. “The problem is not the design. It’s the placement of  this private institution on public trust land. Our legal challenge is moving forward.”

Others are taking a wait-and-see approach.

“It’s smaller, but it’s still amazingly big,” said Chicago architect Carol Ross Barney. “I’m just not sure we have the right building yet.”

Barney, whose firm designed the Chicago Riverwalk, said she’s hesitant to pass judgment on the design for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art because the drawings don’t show enough detail, she said.

“It’s probably a pretty good use for the lakefront, but it’s a tricky architectural problem,” Barney said. “It’s surrounded by architectural monsters right now, with Soldier Field on one side and McCormick Place on the other. It’s going to be a difficult design problem.”

When the original design by Ma Yansong, the Beijing-based principal designer, was unveiled last fall, some compared the swoopy, big-top-like building to a palace for Star Wars villain Jabba the Hutt.

The newer design is smaller — down from 400,000 to 300,000 square feet, allowing more room for “green space.”  The shape isn’t drastically different, although some have called it less “jarring.”

“I’m fine with the shape of the building,” said Ald. Will Burns (4th), whose ward includes the proposed south lakefront site. “It’s softened. . . . The addition of the green space also softens the contours of the building.”

Burns said he suspects reactions to the building will also soften with time — as they did with the Soldier Field renovations, he said.

“The same thing will be true of the Lucas museum, especially as people get used to using it and visiting it,” Burns said.

Zurich Esposito, executive vice president of The American Institute of Architects Chicago, said he is fascinated by a building set to be unlike any other in the city.

Esposito said he’s intrigued by the building’s “dune-like” form that appears to have almost no entirely flat surfaces.

“Personally, I think it will be exciting to see how such an architectural form will be constructed,” Esposito said. “It poses lots of interesting design problems and challenges. It’s so unique.”

The museum’s construction is expected to begin in March and last until 2018.

Contributing: AP

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A conceptual drawing of the original plan for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. | Provided

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This rendering released by the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art shows the inside of the museum proposed to be built along Lake Michigan in Chicago. | Photo provided by Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, distributed by the Associated Press

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