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Ryan Szanyi, 31, looks at the artwork he helped design and install at the newly rehabbed Wilson stop on the Red Line. The project was a homecoming of sorts for the architect, who grew up in Indiana, attended college in Chicago and lives and works in London. | Provided photo

Art unveiling at new Wilson Station brings architect home

SHARE Art unveiling at new Wilson Station brings architect home
SHARE Art unveiling at new Wilson Station brings architect home

Gaze long enough and it may seem like a portal to another dimension hovering overhead.

It’s the feeling L riders might experience while taking in the just-unveiled artwork gracing the lobby of the Red Line Wilson Street station.

The surreal feeling would be appropriate when considering the unusual career trajectory that boomeranged Ryan Szanyi, the young architect who helped design it, back to Chicago.

Monday was the official opening for the main station house at that L stop, which is nearing the end of a $203 million makeover.

Szanyi, 31, who grew up in Munster, Indiana, and attended the Illinois Institute of Technology, has spent the last few years in London learning the strange world where architecture meets art from his boss, Cecil Balmond, an internationally renowned designer who builds on a grand scale.

The new CTA station at Wilson on the Red Line officially opened Monday. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

The new CTA station at Wilson on the Red Line officially opened Monday. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Balmond designed the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London, a giant observation tower resembling a roller coaster that served as the centerpiece of the 2012 Summer Olympics. He collaborated on that project with Anish Kapoor, who is known to Chicagoans as the man behind Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate, more commonly known as “The Bean.”

As a college student, Szanyi rode the L all over Chicago and was able to offer his boss a bit of Midwestern perspective while brainstorming ideas for the project.

It’s Szanyi’sfirst major piece. And with an estimated $450,000 price tag, it’s one of the most expensive pieces of art commissioned by the CTA. Federal grant money covered the tab.

Besides the artwork, the new station, replacing one of the Red Lines most famously grimy stops, includes two elevators, two escalators, wider stairwells and additional turnstiles. For the first time, the Wilson stop will offer Purple Line Express service.

But there’s still work to be done, including completing the renovation of the historic Gerber Building across the street from the new station entrance. The entire project is expected to wrap up next year.

It was started in 2014, and Szanyi first chatted with the Sun-Times about the project that year; “I definitely feel that the pressure’s on to do my city proud,” he said then.

Artist Ryan Szanyi with his parents, Mike and Carol Szanyi, on Monday at the new Wilson CTA station. Ryan’s artwork is hanging above them in the station’s lobby. | Provided photo

Artist Ryan Szanyi with his parents, Mike and Carol Szanyi, on Monday at the new Wilson CTA station. Ryan’s artwork is hanging above them in the station’s lobby. | Provided photo

On Monday, he said he considered the project a success, but noted that L riders will have the final say.

“I hope it stops people in their tracks and gives them a moment out their day to reflect upon things,” he said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave Szanyi a nod of approval at the unveiling of the artwork, which coincided with the official opening of the station after a $203 million facelift.

City officials hope the rehabbed station, which maintains the art deco aesthetic of the surrounding area, will be a boost to the Uptown neighborhood.

Szanyi’sparents, Mike and Carol Szanyi, both retired and living in Munster, were on hand at Monday’s station opening to congratulate their son.

“I was just stunned when I saw it,” Mike Szanyi said, comparing the moment to the first time he saw the Grand Canyon. “I was quite proud and delighted for him.”

Following the ceremony, Szanyi, who flew in Sunday night from London, planned to focus on acquiring and drinking craft beer, which he said is hard to come by overseas.

The Gerber Building across the street from the newly-reopened Uptown station at Wilson and Broadway is shown in 2011. Work continues on this building. | Sun-Times file photo

The Gerber Building across the street from the newly-reopened Uptown station at Wilson and Broadway is shown in 2011. Work continues on this building. | Sun-Times file photo

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