I headed downtown today to check out the Art Institute’s new Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano and which opened on Saturday.  The opening weekend (and all this week) Target is sponsoring free admission at the museum, which was definitely a mixed blessing, but nonetheless one gets a sense of the space itself even among the throngs of people.

Being somewhat disoriented (see: crowds, above), I did not get a clear picture in my head of how this new wing connects with the existing building, but the collection itself has been pretty neatly integrated into the new galleries – American contemporary and the Surrealists, among other things, are now housed in the Modern Wing.  The daylight-capturing roof was best seen from the outside, but was apparently at different angles when I walked in the wing and later out of it.

The best part by far was the new bridge connecting the museum with Millennium Park.  Although it’s a bit tricky to access it from the museum itself (one elevator takes you up to the balcony level, and the escalators are down-only?  Why?!), I imagine it’s a nice walk up from the park level.  The view is a beautiful one – overlooking the fountains and wading pool, looking east and west at Monroe, and the latticework of the amphitheatre lawn to the north – and very peaceful.  The bridge itself does quiver a bit, which I’d read about and was therefore prepared for, but it was unsettling nonetheless.

Looking north over Millennium Park

Looking north over Millennium Park

Unfortunately, the view immediately below the bridge is mostly landscaping detritus, so just don’t look down!

On my way home, I also (finally) stopped over at the Merchandise Mart to see the installation of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly Eye Dome.  It had some kind of organic chair-pile installation inside it – very cool.

Buckminster Fuller, Fly Eye Dome

Buckminster Fuller, Fly Eye Dome

The inside looks like raw blue fiberglass, and the bottom of the circles sit on the floor at an angle which suggests you could complete the sphere with more sections, if you so choose.

POSTSCRIPT:  The photography rooms in the basement of the Art Institute might be one of my new favorite things.  Also in the corner was the Architecture and Design Office/Library… it was closed, but peeking in the window had its reward.  Note that the drawers are Sudoku-like, not repeating colors in any row or column.

Architecture Library and Office at the Art Institute

Architecture Library and Office at the Art Institute

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