Chicago may be the Second City (later retconned to Third), but two of fandoms biggest geek gods are trying to build monuments to themselves!  (Kinda like Lex Luthor, but cooler.)

George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, former comics shop retailer, and now semi-retired, wants to build the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art! Lucas will pay for cost of the building, as well as set up an endowment, totalling some $700 Million.

From the website:

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be a gathering place to experience narrative art and the evolution of moving images – from illustration to cinema to the digital media of the future.

If you’ve seen the CBS This Morning interview of Lucas, you’ve seen some samples of his massive art collection.  Rockwell, Leyendecker, Barks, Mingo, Vargas, Parrish, Tenniel, Rackham…  plus examples from the Lucasfilm archives, and various other treasures.

Planned to encompass 400,000 square feet, it will contain four movie theaters, archives, an education center, and an observation deck and restaurant.   (Good vistas from that spot!)  What spot, you ask?

A parking lot to the north of McCormick Place, just south of Soldiers Field, and not too far from Chicago’s famed Museum Campus.

LMNA014 site

In the picture above, you see the Field Museum of Natural History, Soldiers Field, the underground parking structure, the Lucas Museum, and the Lakeside Hall of McCormick Place (site of the first C2E2 in 2010).  To the east is the former site of Meigs Field, known to old school gamers as the home of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

But… there are problems.  Many have criticized MAD Design‘s initial plan for the museum, likening it to Jabba’s barge (or Jabba himself!).  Park advocates say it is a private enterprise which runs afoul of lakeside park protection.  They have sued, stating that since that area is landfill, it is part of Lake Michigan, and subject to state, not city, overview.

The proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art hit heavy legal turbulence today as a federal judge kept alive a lawsuit designed to block the project and hinted that a change in state law ultimately may be needed if the facility is to be built on a lakefront site just south of Soldier Field.

In a ruling that likely will roil Chicago politics, U.S. District Court Judge John Darrah pretty much gave Friends of the Parks everything it wanted in its suit—short of a final decision.

Specifically, he held that Friends of the Parks, which has sued to block the proposed project, had legal standing to sue and provided enough proof that the city’s action is improper for legal proceedings to continue.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the decision was the suggestion that, even though the museum would go on what now are parking lots, the state’s responsibility to administer the land remains valid since the property involved is landfill and once was covered by Lake Michigan.

But… Los Angeles might be a stalking horse!

“The advantage Los Angeles has is that it’s on the USC campus and I don’t have to go through all the rigmarole of years and years of trying to get past everything,” Lucas said. “That’s an advantage because I do want to get it done in my lifetime.”

I once walked the Lakefront Trail from my hotel to McCormick one morning.  The parkland is nice, and frankly, I kind of like the idea of tearing down a parking lot and replacing it with a museum!  And how awesome would it be to have a temple of nerdity located next door to C2E2?

Further south, a more visible battle is brewing.  Where to place the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum?

While Hawai’i (birthplace) and Columbia University (alma mater) were candidates (check out Hawai’i’s design!), Chicago has been selected to house the library, archives, and policy center, the first second in an urban area, although an official final announcement has yet to be made.

But, where to place it?  As with the Lucas Museum, park land would be utilized, possibly either at Jackson Park or it’s twin, Washington Park, near the University of Chicago (where Obama was a professor for twelve years.) However, Chicago’s parks are architectural masterpieces (as is the design of the city following the Great Fire).  Jackson Park was designed by Olmstead and Vaux, but wasn’t landscaped until the Chicago World’s Fair, at which time Daniel Burnham collaborated with Olmstead.  Afterwards, it was converted back to parkland.  As you can see, it houses the Museum of Science and Industry, but aside from the beach and golf course, remains rather sedate.

Washington Park, connected to Jackson via the Midway Plaisance, is the other site being considered. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is smaller and more significant, hosting many events on the South Side of Chicago.  The DuSable Museum of African American History is located there.

Obama UC
Image © 2015 The University of Chicago.

A longshot is the University of Illinois at Chicago, located near the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290). (Possibly OVER the expressway, where Ryan, Eisenhower, and Kennedy meet Byrne!)  (What better symbol of the current gridlock in Washington than building the presidential library next to one of the most congested freeway interchanges in the country?!)

The Obama Foundation is talking with local groups about the library, proposing that renovation of whichever park be part of final plan, and even suggesting that any land used for the site could be reclaimed elsewhere.  The final decision has yet to be made, as the Mayoral runoff election postponed any decision.

Most likely, the project will have a split campus.  The public museum and library will be placed somewhere with easy access, and the policy institute located within a university campus.  Wherever it is placed, it’s seen a keystone to economic development.  (As most major architectural projects are…)

If you’re an armchair architect, you might be interested in the following:






  1. If I had a dollar for every time I crashed trying to land a simulated plane at Meigs Field…. I could’ve seen Return of the Jedi a whole lot more times.

  2. I like the Idea of a Narrative Arts Museum. The building design seems fresh and innovative to me. I used to live in Chicago and know the Museums there are a huge benefit to the city and state. Really a silly law suit and over a parking lot no less!

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