Chicago can be considered both a city of architects and in a way, a city for architects; despite the huge number of other famous buildings in the city, I found myself particularly taken by the form and execution of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Perhaps it was because it was my first encounter in person with a Frank Gehry building – they’re understandably somewhat thin on the ground in Asia. It probably didn’t do any harm that I also happened to go on a day where the sky was throwing up a fantastic assortment of clouds and light; if you didn’t like the arrangement of cumulus, just wait a few minutes for a fresh one. And of course late September in Chicago means that the light is never directly overhead, because the sun sweeps over the horizon in an arc – making any time of day fair game to shoot.
The pavilion was named for Jay Pritzker, Hyatt Hotel chain founder and of course establisher of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture. (I did wonder on more than one occasion if this building would be eligible for the prize if it were to be entered…) The building itself is notable for a few things aside from Gehry’s trademark curved and twisted metal cladding forms – the bandshell has no internal columns or pillars to obstruct the audience’s view; speakers are placed every 21m on another pillarless overhead truss for active reinforcement of sound from the top and sides to define a space acoustically; and the outer steel cladding had to be made with extremely low tolerances of 0.125″ (3.2mm) – compared to a standard 1-2″ (25-50mm). Access is supposedly also meant to be free for the public even during events, though this has raised some controversy. The pavilion, seating and lawn areas are built on top of a large underground carpark which remains very well concealed from pedestrians at ground level.
Having attended an event one evening at the venue (no images, I was enjoying the sound), I can say that the acoustics really do work, and work surprisingly well – you really do get the feeling that you are sitting inside a concert hall rather than an outdoor space; there isn’t the same sense of solely monodirectional sound with attenuation above and behind that other outdoor performances generate. One can only assume it’s the very elaborate speaker system doing its job – though I do wonder if performance will eventually degrade over time since everything is exposed to the elements, including bird deposits – which cannot possibly be good for moving acoustic components!
The images in this set are broken up into a color series that I feel captures the warmth and atmosphere of the place – no doubt the bright red seats being reflected off every internal-facing surface helps dissipate the normally cold color of stainless steel. There is also a monochrome series that concentrates on texture and form. Both were shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus, 24/3.5 PCE and Pentax 645Z with 55/2.8 and 150/3.5 lenses. The monochrome images were processed using the ‘balanced’ workflow in the Monochrome Masterclass video. Enjoy! MT
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