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Casting Nichols Across the Road






 -by Lynn Becker

[May 15, 2008] - As a serial seducer lurks nearby, Renzo Piano's Nichols Bridgeway crosses a major hurdle. A photo essay.

The Magic of America, by Marion Mahony Griffin


The Nichols Bridgeway, designed by architect Renzo Piano, will be a 600-foot span that descends from the upper level of Piano's new Modern Wing for the Art Institute of Chicago, currently under construction, down deep inside of Millennium Park, Chicago's new downtown showpiece.

Nichols Bridgeway under construction in Chicago, Renzo Piano, architect

Last weekend, the real bridgey part of the project, the section that actually crosses something - Monroe street - was put into place. Not far away, at Millennium Park's Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion, a hardy band of enthusiasts braved the increasingly chilly night to watch a big-screen simulcast of Chicago Opera Theater's energetic production of Mozart's Don Giovanni, which was taking place in the Harris Theater, just on the other side of the Pritzker's stage.
Chicago Opera Theater's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni in big-screen simulcast at the Frank Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, ChicagoPreparations were well underway at the Nichols Bridgeway at Monroe, with workers scurrying hoists and cranes into position as steel fencing was put up around the site.
Nichols Bridgeway, Renzo Piano architect, under construction in ChicagoThe piece that would cross Monroe street sat waiting on a flat truck.
Section awaiting installation, Nichols Bridgeway, Chicago, Renzo Piano, architect
Nichols Bridgeway construction, Chicago, Renzo Piano, Architect
Preparations continued until afternoon turned to dusk, and then to night.
Nichols Bridgeway of the Art Institute of Chicago under construction
Art Institute of Chicago's Nichols Bridgeway under construction in Chicago
Nichols Bridgeway under construction, Chicago
The tall metal towers that provided temporary were moved and put into their new positions. The evening grew older, and colder. And the Don's prospects were beginning to look grim.
Chicago Opera Theater production of Mozart's Don Giovanni simulcast in Millennium Park
And so, your frosted correspondent made his way home, and to bed.

And lo, when we awoke the next morning, the bridge fairy had made her expected appearance, and the Monroe section was now in place, held aloft by cranes as workers welded the piece into place.
Nichols Bridgeway crossing Monroe Street, Chicago
Workers on the Nichols Bridgeway, Chicago
We are told that the green metal towers are temporary support structures. The brown towers you see south of the Monroe are what will provide the actual support when the bridge is lowered after being welding into one continuous piece . Concrete abutments such as the one you see to the left in the picture below, whose contours have been hidden behind trees in all the renderings, will support the Nichols north of Monroe as it makes its descent into Millennium Park.
Nichols Bridgeway, Chicago, Renzo Piano, architect
(Our thanks to the indefatigable Bob Johnson for the aerial shots shown here.)

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© 2008 photos and text Lynn Becker All rights reserved.

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