MAD reveals concept design for
George Lucas' Chicago art museum

| 26 comments
Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago by MAD

News: Beijing firm MAD has unveiled the initial design for an art museum on Chicago's lakefront, which will house the collection of American film director George Lucas.

MAD was selected alongside Chicago based Studio Gang by Star Wars creator George Lucas in July to design the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (LMNA) and its grounds.



MAD has now unveiled the design for the building, which will present a history of the moving image using Lucas' existing collection and new additions. Studio Gang is creating the landscaping for the site as well as a new bridge to connect the museum to the nearby Northerly Island peninsula, which has not been made public yet.

The result is a curving white stone building with extremities that extend into the landscape, creating a platform above the main entrance. At the highest point, a flat top is covered by a "floating" disc, forming a sheltered viewing area that offers visitors vistas of Chicago and Lake Michigan.

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago by MAD

Slices cut out of the facade provide space for slivers of glazing, while three levels of exhibition spaces form "infinite loops" inside, according to the designers. A large, open lobby area inside the entrance described as an "urban living room" is lit by a central skylight.

"The Lucas Museum design is both futuristic and timeless," said the team in a statement. "Its continuous, undulating organic surface blurs the line between structure and landscape. As the harbour rises up to the land, it merges with stone surfaces that reach up to the sky and ultimately crescendo into a 'floating' disc."

The museum will occupy a site near some of Chicago's existing institutions on a stretch of land that has become known as Museum Campus. Studio Gang's design will connect the new building to the park the firm created on Northerly Island.

MAD founder Ma Yansong, whose current projects include a complex of buildings in Beijing meant to emulate the forms of classical Chinese landscape paintings, said he wanted to make the museum building appear like a "wave" coming out of the ground.

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago by MAD

"The green space, the public park is a great asset for Chicago and I want our building to blend into this environment, so you don't tell where the building is, where the park is," he said. "You will see the building as a landscape in front of all these modern skyscrapers."

"Our museum is not in the city, not in the downtown area. It is on the edge of the artificial and nature. So I was thinking, maybe our architecture can bring the nature force, like water waves."

Chicago-based studio VOA Associates will act as the executive architect to implement MAD's design.

"We are bringing together some of the top architects in the world to ensure that our museum experience begins long before a visitor ever enters the building," said George Lucas, in a statement published in July when the architects for the project were announced. "I am thrilled with the architectural team's vision for the building and the surrounding green space."

  • Jeroen van Lith

    Nuclear power plant.

    • davvid

      Oh please. “Looks like” is the lowest kind of criticism.

    • spadestick

      Hypermatter power plant, tachyonic hyperspace matter from the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances.

  • Josh Bell

    The skateboarders will be drooling uncontrollably.

  • arch18

    Holy volcano?

  • Concerned Citizen

    Icicle shape? Where?

  • dadv

    One of the few projects where MAD can do something crazy futuristic and not have to justify their aesthetic. Actually, it’s hard to judge anything without more information like plans, aerial, program of that weird hat thing, etc.

    Also +1 to davvid’s criticism comment. Can’t wait to use this line on my least favourite co-worker today.

  • Mr Young

    Here he goes again, Ma giving Chinese architects a bad reputation abroad!

    • FAFA

      What reputation do those Chinese architects have right now? Be collaborative with the star architects and come to China?

      • Mr Young

        I feel we are close to the tipping point where Chinese practices can feasibly compete on an international front, but the shock and awe tactics which are on display with this and many other projects from China can be misinterpreted as naive.

        The fact is many of MADs projects interact with little or no urban context. It’s an ‘island’ or ‘mountain’ but in this instance there is a rich local context and many narratives to explore, which are undetectable from any visuals here.

        Hence it sells the architect in this case a bit short and appearing slightly ignorant. Clearly not the type of reputation which you would want to be associated with.

  • junihaoni
  • Michal O.

    Niemeyer pretty much did this at Le Havre already. Different scale, but scale isn’t really at issue here.

  • pharoah

    The first guy who did a pyramid said to the second guy who did a pyramid, “That’s already been done.”

    • designie

      Are you talking about Egypt or Paris? or MAYA? or Las Vegas? Learn your history first. Although they are obviously different.

  • Braulio

    Seems like MAD took inspiration from the wrong American titan of sci-fi cinema.

  • blair

    Exciting architecture for Chicago! Everyone knows Chicago has already lost its position in the contemporary architecture world. When Mies fist came to Chicago, his architecture was also an alien. Don’t be so conservative Chicagoan.

  • eluna

    Boy, this is too ugly compare to MAD’s snow mountain.

  • Denise_Arch

    Why people could give mean judgement by three images? I thought you all studied architecture and actually knew more. I look forward to it to be built in Chicago. Honestly, already happy to see only these three images is shaking and shocking this city already. Interesting and inspiring.

  • pippen

    It seems at this site every piece of architecture represents a time in the history, and the Lucas Museum is trying to evoke a new age, which is definitely a bold gesture towards the city. Hard to say too much with just three images. Hope it will be properly realised, which is the best manifesto to the idea itself.

  • Alan

    Absolutely correct. Internet vitriol is a waste of a diploma and a self-addressed invitation to actually visit the site in question.

  • nataaaaaaa

    Agreed! So bored with this city.

  • denise_arch

    I really cannot think about who else rather than him that actually has any practices abroad though. At least he has the chance to give a reputation. But I like him. I’ll call it a good one.

    • Mr Young

      Agree, I’m just hoping not too much damage has been done before the others get a chance.

      Personally, I like the gusto and confidence Ma approaches projects with, but I just find it hard to decipher much depth in the architecture (materiality, control of shadow, integration with skyline and clients identity).

      I hope the reputation that is imparted in the states is not one of shallowness, which is one conclusion I reluctantly cannot shake out my mind when I view this proposal.

  • Does anyone remember what architecture was like, when architects included other building designs as part of their environment? Cities are becoming collections of massive, expensive objects, not design that has dialogue with others.

    This is just screaming, for a city with mostly well-thought out language. I’d love to see the render next to Daniel Burnham’s drawings.

  • Oslo

    The concert hall by Snöhetta is in Olso, Norway, not Malmö, Sweden.

  • Riccardo Pusceddu

    davvid, I so agree with you!