I’ve always been partial to architectural mountains—from the Mayans to Bruno Taut—so I was delighted to see the hilly design that Beijing-based MAD Architects has proposed for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago. Others were less so. These included Friends of the Park, a nonprofit group, which, alarmed that the parking-lot site would not remain “open space,” immediately filed a lawsuit, and Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune critic who, citing unsourced “widespread public revulsion,” denounced the structure’s mountainessness, blobbiness, starchitecturality, abstraction, and resem- blance to (quick, a Star Wars image!) the “bloated” Jabba the Hutt, with his “leering, reptilian eyes.” Yikes, that line between geomorphs and biomorphs can be tricky! In a subsequent article, Kamin suggested what he felt to be a better site, a few blocks away, one somewhat more constraining and linear, perhaps better able to accommodate a replica of a recumbent Carrie Fisher.
Outside the vagaries of taste, is there any merit to this spleen? Kamin observes that Lake Michigan has an “overriding horizontality.” Of course, this is a quality shared with pretty much all bodies of water, not to mention the land mass extending ad infinitum to the lake’s west. By one reading, Chicago’s singularity is as an interruption in this continuous plane, a great vertical wall stretching for miles along the shore, a thin but massive membrane with flatness on either side, a continental divide. To be sure, Kamin and others are right to defend the linear park that runs between the buildings and the lake as part of Chicago’s DNA. ….