The real story behind the Chicago Bean (Cloud Gate)

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August 28, 2020
who build the chicago bean

Whether you live in Chicago or not, you have most likely seen the Chicago Bean. Do you really know what is the story behind it and why was it built?

Living in the Windy City means you get access to all the wonderful landmarks and attractions the city has to offer. One of the most famous attractions in Chicago is the Bean. This public art has become an icon to the city and is a must-see spot for many tourists visiting.

The Chicago Bean is a unique site you can’t get anywhere else. Let’s explore the idea behind this installation and how it came to be.

what is cloud gate chicago

The Chicago Bean explained

First off, where is the Chicago Bean located? It can be found in the heart of Chicago. Specifically, you can find it in Millennium Park, a lakefront park in the Loop or downtown Chicago. The Chicago Bean is 33 feet high, 43 feet wide, and 66 feet long. It also weighs a massive 110 tons.

The Bean is completely made up of stainless steel. It was created by putting together 168 massive steel plates and welding them shut to create a seamless finish. The interior is made up of two large metal rings that connect by a framework. This framework is similar to what you might see on a bridge.

It allows the weight of the sculpture to be on the two end points, which creates the “bean shape”. In addition, the Bean’s stainless steel exterior is connected to the frame with flexible connectors. This allows the plates to expand and contract depending on weather changes.

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6 North Michigan Avenue, #1103 The Loop, Chicago

Who built the Bean?

The Bean was designed by Anish Kapoor. He is an Indian-born British artist and sculptor. He is well-known for many of his large scale outdoor works of art. Many of these also include reflective surfaces. Moreover, the Cloud Gate installation is his first permanent public outdoor art in the United States. 

It was first unveiled in 2004 at the opening of Millennium Park. However, the sculpture was not completely finished until 2006. The inspiration for the installation’s reflective surface is liquid mercury. The shiny exterior of the Bean perfectly reflects and distorts the surrounding skyline, green space, and people moving around the park.

In other words, it perfectly captures the experiences of visiting Millennium Park by the visitor viewing the reflection. As the reflection changes depending on the visitor’s position, every person creates their own vision of the park and surrounding areas.

So can you touch the Bean? The short answer is yes! Cloud Gate was built as an interactive sculpture where visitors can touch, observe their reflections, and walk through the art. In fact, the Bean’s maintenance crew come to wipe down the fingerprints on the bottom sections up to seven times a day. In addition, cleaners come twice a year to polish and buff the entire sculpture.

who build cloud gate in chicago
130 North Garland Court, #1612 The Loop, Chicago

Why Cloud Gate is called the Bean

The official title of this public art sculpture is “Cloud Gate”. This is because 80% of the steel sculpture’s surface reflects the sky and bends it on both sides into a “gate” shape. Not to mention, the curved shape allows an entrance underneath for visitors to walk through and enter the park.

However, Anish Kapoor doesn’t title his works before they are finished. So, before the attraction was even named, Chicagoans started calling it “the Bean” after seeing the planned design. This is due to its closed curve shape that is similar to a bean. The nickname then stuck.

The best time of year to visit the Bean

If you find Cloud Gate fascinating, you may want to have a full experience and photo visiting the installation without crowds of people in your way. It is no easy feat when it’s such a popular attraction for tourists and Chicagoans alike. It is probably best to plan your visit for early in the morning or on weekdays rather than weekends.

Additionally, the season can affect the number of people in the area. For instance, summer and holiday seasons may be busier compared to the rest of the year. However, if you don’t mind the crowds, there is probably no bad time to visit the Bean.

what is the story behind cloud gate the bean

Explore around The Chicago Bean

If you come to visit the Bean, there are plenty of things to explore in the area. Firstly, Cloud Gate’s arch leads you right into Millennium Park. It is also next to the McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink. It is a multi-purpose venue that serves as an outdoor ice rink for four months a year. For the rest of the year, it is Park Grill Plaza, Chicago’s largest outdoor dining facilities. It also hosts a variety of culinary and music events throughout the year.

Right in front of the Bean is the Chase Promenade. It is an 8 acres long tree-lined walkway that hosts a variety of exhibitions, festivals, and other events. The Harris Theater is also nearby. It is a 1,499-seat performing arts theater. It serves as Millennium Park’s indoor performing venue for music and dance groups.

Additionally, there are plenty of apartment high-rises within walking distance from the Chicago Bean. This includes The Heritage, the Crain Communications Building, and Michigan Plaza.

The best place to rent in Chicago

If you want to live in the heart of Chicago, here are some of the best places to rent near the Chicago Bean:

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222 North Columbus Drive, #5001 The Loop, Chicago

Cloud Gate is one of Chicago’s most iconic art installations. Find your dream apartment near Millennium Park and live in the Loop community area. In the heart of Chicago, there are plenty of fun sites to see and delicious dining spaces.

Localize can help you find the perfect space for your lifestyle and needs.

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