By now, most Chicagoans have taken to calling Anish Kapoor's Millennium Park sculpture "Cloud Gate" simply "da bean." However, a component of the recently unveiled Adams-Sangamon Park in Chicago's West Loop District can claim to be an actual cloud gate. This installation of five staggered stainless steel rectangular arches actually exude a cloud-like mist when users push one of the red buttons on small posts at either end of the plaza. The park, designed by Site Design Group, has been in the works for years, but only just opened at the end of August, to the delight of West Loop loft-o-minium parents and dog-lovers. The park boasts numerous amenities, including the misting fountain, dog park, toddler playground, seating, contoured lawns and trees, in addition to innovative "green" features such as recycled rubber ground cover, pollution absorbing cement, and repurposed stone lintels from a demolished building previously on this site, which now serve as seating. The park, while undeniably a great amenity for neighborhood residents, was also quite expensive, reportedly costing the city almost $20 million, twice the per acre cost it normally spends to develop a park. It is unclear if Millennium Park was a direct inspiration to the design firm and neighborhood association that developed the park, but it appears to have influenced the outcome, from the reflective, interactive fountain component to the broad, straight stone and cement paths that cut through and connect the park's different use sectors. On a recent warm evening, the park was alive with jubilant neighborhood denizens, walking and playing with dogs, overseeing children's activities, and relaxing in the waning hours of sun, basking in the drifting cloud of cool water vapor emanating from the stainless steel gates.
These staggered metal sections also remind me of walking legs, of course on a much smaller scale of numbers than Magdalena Abakanovicz's "Agora" installation in Grant Park south of Millenium Park's "Cloud Gate." Adams-Sangamon Park, then, is a real, functional agora for the West Loop, and provides a real, functional cloud gate through which the public can walk, run, and frolic.