The Art Institute of Chicago Essay

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The building at 111 South Michigan Avenue, home of the Art Institute of Chicago, was opened in 1893 as the World’s Congress Auxiliary Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition. The building was passed on to the Art Institute after the end of the exposition. Designed in the Beax-Arts style by Boston firm Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, building has become an icon for chicagoans an tourists alike. The Modern Wing, the Art Institute’s latest and largest addition to date, opened on May 16, 2009, and was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. The 264,000 square foot addition now houses the museum’s collections of modern European painting and sculpture, contemporary art, architecture and design, and photography. The new …show more content…
The main building of the Art Institute is constructed mostly of masonry, with few windows, and feels very heavy and overpowering. Grand staircases and large columns dwarf visitors as they move through the galleries. This is similar to the way the art in the space makes you feel: small, unimportant, and sometimes even afraid. The Modern wing in constructed of steel and glass, and is very open and bright (except when intended not to be). The large north wall facing Millenium Park is one large expanse of windows, letting in plenty of indirect sunlight, and opening the gallery to the park. The space feels very light, in both senses of the word. As with the old building, the art feels similar to the space in that it is more open and less opressive.
The two buildings also differ in the way they interact with the city, since they have vastly differing neighbors. The main building is centered on Adams street and faces the Loop, the busiest area of the city. Flanking the main entrance are two large, bronze, lions that seem to protect the building from the city, while still allowing visitors to enter and exit the museum. The new Modern Wing, however, faces Chicago’s Millenium Park. The face of the building along the park side is a large face of windows. So, while the old building is trying to shut out the city to create a space for itself, the Modern Wing is opening itself up to let the park…

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