Thursday, August 6, 2009

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Did your mother ever admonish you for jumping up and down on the furniture?  How about roughhousing in someone else's house?  Well, not enough mothers do these days, as evidenced by the extensive damage done to the Burnham Pavilion designed by UNStudio.

The project at Millennium Park, sometimes known as the Light Table, has been treated to ruthlessly that it is now closed to the public.  Look, but no longer touch.  It used to be possible to get up close and personal with the architecture, but not anymore.

And these aren't just simple footprints.  There are chunks of the surface material missing.  In some places it is possible to see the structure beneath.  In one corner, it is clear that a group of people with some kind of wheeled conveyances (Skateboards? Bicycles? Wheelie shoes?) had a contest to see who could rocket up the side and onto the roof.  There are skid marks 13 feet high.

The Burnham Pavilions were intended to be temporary structures.  But by "temporary" it was meant that they'd be disassembled and taken to another location, not demolished and taken to the landfill.


  1. Skateboards are one thing, but what do you expect? People touch and walk on the Picasso and bean, it's just that this thing was built very cheaply because it's temporary.

  2. Is it really inaccessible now? Just last night there were dozens of people on the deck and kids were running around.

    I will also add that while skateboards and such are taking things too far, it doesn't seem like either of these 2 structures were built with durability in mind. Of course people are going to step on the fabric or the plywood simply because it is there. should they? Perhaps not but the architects need to understand the practical realities of their designs.

  3. It's as inaccessible as the security guards let it be. There are two very large signs (one shown above) telling people to stay off. Whether they choose to heed those signs or not is up to them.

    As for durability, you're right -- the materials chosen aren't the best for durability. But they are good for transportability, which is the point.

    The structures are meant to be disassembled and put up again in another city. Now when they get to their next destination people are going to say, "Look what those animals in Chicago did to this."

    You bring up a good point about the architects, and I believe it was also stated in a Tribune review -- that the designers didn't put enough thought into what would happen when real people put their real bodies against the pavilions.

  4. -Update-

    The Chicago Tribune reports that damage to the pavilion is so extensive that it's being closed for repairs, and that if the repairs aren't done it may not survive the remaining two months it was scheduled to be on display.

    Tribune article:

    Our response:


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