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Burnham Pavilion by UNStudio


Dutch architects UNStudio last week unveiled designs for a temporary pavilion for Millennium Park in Chicago.


The structure, along with a second designed by Zaha Hadid, will be erected in the park from 19 June 19 to 31 October.


The pavilions will celebrate the centenary of 1909 Plan of Chicago, also known as the Burnham Plan, which set out ways to improve the city.


Here’s a statement from UNStudio followed by all you’ll ever need to know about the Burnham Plan Centennial:

UNStudio, Burnham Pavilion, Chicago

Placed on a unique location in the middle of Millennium Park and framed by Lake Michigan on one side and Michigan Avenue on the other, the UNStudio pavilion relates to diverse city-contexts, programs and scales. Programmatically the pavilion invites people to gather, walk around and through and to explore and observe. The UNStudio pavilion is sculptural, highly accessible and  functions as an urban activator.


Based on the specificity of the site, the design of the pavilion elaborates on the relationship to the existing  rigid geometry, but it also introduces a floating and multi-directional space. It orients itself to the city texture, to the flows of visitors exploring Millennium Park and most importantly introduces diverse vistas towards the park and city surroundings. The pavilion is open at its sides, between the two horizontal planes of the podium and  roof.


The design of the UNStudio pavilion initially uses the orthogonal setup of the city and park grid. The edges of the pavilion follow the strict grid system of the surrounding city and park geometry. Burnham’s Plan one hundred years ago introduced this generic grid as the main generator of the city texture. However alongside this he also introduced a device to read both specificity and variation in the form of the diagonal boulevards, thereby creating specific vistas throughout the city.


The UNStudio pavilion operates in a similar way, but in contrast uses the entire spectrum of 360 degrees. Instead of Burnham’s tectonic layering of the city, the pavilion introduces a gradient between its ingredients of floor, wall and ceiling in a floating and continuous form. The hierarchy of  the horizontal or vertical plane is converted into an understanding of a space as continuous transformation and fluidity. The initially horizontal panorama on top of the pavilion’s podium smoothly shifts diagonally into the three roof openings, framing vertical views of the city skyline. The ambivalence of directionality and the introduction of continuous flow in the structure allows for a smooth opening-up of spaces, directions and, importantly, the most diverse vistas from which to frame and read the city context.

- Main: Steel structure of columns in the three “legs” of the pavilion and horizontal steel beams
-Secondary: wooden rib structure to form smooth geometry
-Third: plywood paneling to form skin of pavilion
-Finish: bondo (=elastic plaster) and paint

Light installation:
To emphasize the shape and geometry of the building also through the night, a sophisticated lighting device is introduced. Built into the podium of the pavilion, a system of 49 LED lights illuminates the fluid forms of the structure in between the two horizontal levels of podium and roof. In real-time the ever changing animation of light varies in intensity, color and, interactively, the rhythm of activation.

Project credits:
Ben van Berkel, Caroline Bos with Christian Veddeler, Wouter de Jonge and Hans-Peter Nuenning, Ioana Sulea

Garofalo Architects.
Douglas Garofalo with Grant Gibson


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