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Zaha Hadid’s Burnham Pavilion ‘Welcomes the Future’ with Curvy Aluminum, Fabric Skins

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(Images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects © Michelle Litvin)

Thanks to the intrepid reporting of Steve Delahoyde, UnBeige’s Man in Chicago, you know almost all there is to know about the Burnham Pavilions. Designed by Zaha Hadid and Ben van Berkel of UNStudio, the two temporary structures were commissioned as part of the centennial celebration of the Plan of Chicago conceived by Daniel Burham and his associates. The pavilions are on view in Millenium Park, but we wanted to offer a closer look to those who can’t make it to the Windy City before they disappear on November 1. First up: Hadid’s space egg, as Steve so brilliantly dubbed it. Hadid and Patrik Schumacher set out to create a 21st-century pavilion (which, by the way, is fully recyclable) that would also reference Burnham’s vision. “The structure is aligned with a diagonal in Burnham’s early 20th century Plan of Chicago,” said Hadid, who pinpointed where the street would fall if extended into Millennium Park. “We then overlay fabric using contemporary 21st-century techniques to generate the fluid, organic form, while the structure is always articulated through the tensioned fabric as a reminder of Burnham’s original ideas.” That’s much easier than she makes it sound.


The structure was created by welding 7,000 uniquely shaped pieces of aluminum into an intricate curve and then zipping the whole thing into a tight fabric suit. From the outside, the look is very Lucio Fontana-goes-to-Mars, while inside, the fabric is used as a screen for a video installation by Thomas Gray that explores Chicago’s past and future. “Fabric is both a traditional and a high-tech material whose form is directly related to the forces applied to it—creating beautiful geometries that are never arbitrary,” said Hadid. “I find this very exciting.”

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