Chicago's natural history museum, the Field Museum, announced Monday it has earned a Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council under the LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (EB O+M) program, becoming just the second museum in the nation to do so. (The Madison Children's Museum is the other.) Two of the museum's halls already achieved LEED certification separately, including its Conservation Hall, which is LEED Gold. But Monday's announcement marks a building-wide rating seldom seen for such building types—the hulking museum, made of limestone and Georgian marble, comprises nearly half a million square feet. Its 3D Theater is also certified under LEED for Interior Design & Construction. Greening a museum that dates back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition was no simple task. (The current building opened in 1921, originally planned by Daniel Burnham and designed by his associate William Peirce Anderson.) In many places its neoclassical stone walls don't have an air gap with the interior brick and plaster, making it difficult to regulate the building's temperature. And, as was made clear when the museum applied for LEED certification, it doesn't function on a typical building's schedule. “A normal building might shut down at 5 [o'clock], but not for us,” said Ernst Pierre-Toussaint, the museum's director of facilities, planning and operations. More than 99 percent of the museum's collection is in storage, which has to be climate controlled and monitored constantly. Pierre-Toussaint said improving energy efficiency has been a goal for at least 15 years. Working with the Delta Institute—an environmental consultant that worked with the Field Museum on the project—Field Museum staff replaced about 30 percent of the building's 6,700 incandescent bulbs with LEDs, and installed 100 kilowatts of rooftop photovoltaic panels. Pierre-Toussaint said they hope to install up to 220 kW more—enough to offset 10 to 15 percent of the building's peak electricity demand —by 2025. The museum accounts for all of its natural gas consumption by purchasing renewable energy credits and carbon offsets. Much of the certification work came down to mechanical system logistics. The museum has 11 separate electric meters, and 13 for water use. Since some collections and accessible areas need to be heated—even during summer—while others are cooled, the museum installed demand-control ventilation to regulate air in sensitive exhibits individually. “We made huge strides over the past two years and are proud to share the results with our visitors,” said Richard Lariviere, the museum's president, in a press release. “One of the big challenges is planning long-term,” said the Delta Institute's Kevin Dick. “You can certainly make quick fixes. But you know an institution like this isn't going anywhere. So in 40 years what will this look like?”
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Ma Yansong's new museum for George Lucas wouldn't look out of place on a Star Wars set. Renderings made public Monday show a white, undulating dune of sorts, its stone surface ascending into a metallic “floating” disc. Chicago will be the home of the famous director's Museum of Narrative Art, to the chagrin of some Californians who had hoped his collection of paintings and movie memorabilia might land in San Francisco or Los Angeles. The lead designers are MAD architects, the Beijing-based firm of Ma Yansong. Local darlings Studio Gang Architects are working with MAD on the lakefront project, along with Chicago's VOA Associates. A spokesman for Studio Gang said Jeanne Gang's portion of the design would be released in 2015. Museum representatives announced the international design team's identity in July, but renderings only appeared online in early November. An expanded version of the museum's website, lucasmuseum.org, now includes an overview of the building's design:
The architectural concept for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art explores the relationship between nature and the urban environment. Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, the design integrates the natural beauty of the park and Lake Michigan with the powerful man-made architecture of Chicago. The design furthers the Museum’s mission to be a place of education, culture, and inspiration.MAD principal Ma Yansong also offers his thoughts on the project in a video posted to Vimeo and embedded on the website: “I think the green space, the public park, is a great asset for Chicago and I want our building [to] blend into this environment,” he said in the video. The setting just south of Chicago's downtown Loop district will provide a unique context, Ma said. “You will see the building as a landscape in front of all these modern skyscrapers.” He described the building's form as “very horizontal, undulating, soft surface merging with [the] existing landscape,” and referenced a public atrium that he called an “urban living room.” That room, and much of the building, will reach out to the sky and surrounding landscape, said Ma. “We want to bring this idea of connecting sky and the land to the project. Because all the space around the museum is about where you touch the land. So the land is very important to us.” The “floating” disc atop the building will feature an observation deck, offering 360-degree views of the surrounding area, including Lake Michigan. Studio Gang “will design the landscape and create a bridge to connect The Lucas Museum to Northerly Island,” according to the project's website. Northerly Island is currently the subject of a massive makeover by Gang that aims to turn the southern portion of the 91-acre peninsula into an ecological park. The website says a live webcam will broadcast the project's construction. The museum's fanciful design is unlikely to cool tensions with the group Friends of the Parks, who have challenged the museum development under Chicago's 1973 Lakefront Protection Ordinance. A formal presentation to the city's plan commission and council is expected next year, but opposition to this private development of lakefront land is likely to continue—especially now that it has a face.
MAD Architects, the Chinese designers known for their organically curving buildings from Inner Mongolia to Canada, will work with two local firms—including Studio Gang Architects—to bring filmmaker George Lucas’ new Chicago museum to life. MAD will design the building, while Studio Gang Architects will provide landscape work—an integral part of the lakefront site—and VOA Associates will be the architect of record, said officials for the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Monday. The Chicago Tribune first reported the story, with Blair Kamin calling "the star-studded team … a surprise given Lucas' penchant for traditional designs." Many also called Lucas' choice of Chicago for the museum, over other West Coast options, surprising. The Star Wars creator’s museum is currently targeting a lakefront site between Soldier Field and the McCormick Place convention center. It would take the place of two surface parking lots, replacing those spots and then some with parking below grade. But that proposal is currently facing a challenge from lakefront advocates, who point to a city ordinance forbidding private development east of Lake Shore Drive. Their qualm may carry legal weight if Lucas doesn’t hand over the museum, in which he is expected to pour $700 million of his money, to the city’s park district upon completion. At any rate, the involvement of MAD’s Ma Yansong and Studio Gang's Jeanne Gang is likely to produce memorable architecture for the new museum, which will house movie memorabilia and selections from Lucas’ extensive art collection. Yansong’s work includes the Ordos Museum, an otherworldly blob in the deserts of Inner Mongolia, and Ontario’s Absolute Towers—sculptural, round apartment towers that have been dubbed the "Marilyn Monroe Towers" after the curvaceous actress. That style seems in keeping with Gang’s own tastes, which tend toward organic forms and eye-grabbing designs. VOA has designed offices for Ariel Investments, a company led by Lucas’ wife Mellody Hobson. Lucas has also pledged to help fund an $18 million pedestrian bridge at 35th Street to improve access to the site. The museum is expected to open in 2018.