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Can the public love public art to death?

August 16, 2009

The saga of the Burnham Plan pavilions; fragile public art takes a hit in an interactive world

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Can the public love public art to death?

Yes, it can, particularly if the art isn’t ready to take the kind of pounding that goes with being displayed in a raucous public place rather the refined confines of a museum.

That is what’s happening in Millennium Park, where the Burnham Plan centennial pavilion by Amsterdam architect Ben van Berkel and his UNStudio will close next week for desperately needed repairs.

Ever since Van Berkel’s pavilion opened June 19, the human urge to climb has boldly asserted itself. In scenes out of “Lord of the Flies,” little kids have run up the pavilion’s scoop-like curves, gouging openings in its glossy white surface and exposing underlying plywood. Skateboarders, older and heavier, have left track marks. On July 3, adults climbed the scoops and clambered onto the pavilion’s flat roof to get a better view of the fireworks. The pavilion had to be shut down lest anybody fall off and crack a skull.

Read more at: Chicago Tribune, Cityscapes by Blair Kamin

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