The Burnham Plan Centennial - Bold Plans, Big Dreams

About the Centennial

Pavilion by UNStudio


"The UNStudio Burnham Pavilion relates to diverse city contexts, program and scales. It invites people to gather, walk around and through and to explore and observe. The pavilion is sculptural, highly accessible and functions as an urban activator." 


-Ben van Berkel


Just as movie camera attempts to frame and capture one story out of a choice of many, so the Burnham Pavilion by UNStudio seeks to surprise us with various views of the Chicago skyline. The openings in the Pavilion roof function as frames that direct our attention outward, toward the texture and cinematic character of the city.


UNStudio principal architect Ben van Berkel says the design of the pavilion was influenced by a trip to Chicago as a teenager, where he observed the cantilevered ceiling and roof eaves of Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. The two horizontal planes of the pavilion show this influence. The edges of the lower of the two planes - the pavilion's floor - act as benches, inviting rest and interaction.


To emphasize the geometry of the building at night, a sophisticated, interactive lighting system is built into the floor. In response to the level of visitor activity the light varies in intensity and color. Chicago artist Daniel Sauter chose the color scheme for his lighting design from the color palette used in the beautiful water colors that illustrated the original Plan, and Dear Productions created the effects.


Though the structure appears light and airy, the frame of the UNStudio Burnham Pavilion receives its support and shape from a strong skeleton of steel. The steel was sponsored by ArcelorMittal, the world's leading steel producer, which has facilities in more than 60 countries and its North American headquarters in Chicago. The pavilion's steel foundation sustains intricately designed plywood ribs which are covered with plywood skin and coated with reflective paint. The steel in this pavilion will be recycled at the end of the pavilion exhibition. Steel is the most recycled material in the world, with more than 250 million tons recycled each year. For more information on UNStudio, click here.


Photos by: Michelle Litvin, Joan Hackett and Brian Willette

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Pavilion Design by UNStudio/Ben van Berkel, Caroline Bos (with Christian Veddeler and Wouter de Jonge)

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Architect of Record: Garofalo Arcitects, Inc.

Fabricator: Third Coast Construction

Structural Engineer: Rockey Structures

Interactive Lighting Concept: Daniel Sauter

Lighting Design: DEAR Productions, Inc.

Collaborating School of Architecture: University of Illinois at Chicago

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Ben van Berkel, a co-founder of UNStudio, is a rising star of inventive architecture, with a special interest in the integration of construction and architecture. Founded in 1988, UNStudio (formerly Van Berkel & Bos Architectuurbureau) is a network of architects, engineers, graphic designers and technical experts who work together and take a fresh, wide-ranging approach to deisgn.

The Burnham Pavilions are open and free to the public in Millennium Park through November 1, 2009. The final on-site Talks With the Team with structural engineer Chris Rockey and project manager Julie Burros takes place October 28.

The Burnham Pavilions

Images of Pavilion by UNStudio

Images of Pavilion by Zaha Hadid

Burnham Pavilion Videos

Burnham Pavilions in Millennium Park

Pavilion Programming

Pavilion by UNStudio

Pavilion by Zaha Hadid Architects

Burnham Pavilion Sponsors


Architectural exhibits in Millennium Park designed by London-based Zaha Hadid and Amsterdam-based Ben van Berkel of UNStudio emphasize the importance of boldly imagining a better future for all. [MORE]

The Burnham Plan Centennial
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