George Lucas's Museum of Narrative Art, now headed for Chicago if all goes well, will be a lightyears-better piece of architecture than he ever planned to build in San Francisco, designed by Beijing-based MAD Architects. The firm has done some very cool stuff, including these rad towers in Toronto (pictured above), and this insane proposal for the World Trade Center site.
Also, Chicago-based Jeanne Gang, who's designing this cool building for San Francisco, will lead the landscape design for the museum, and is designing a bridge that will connect the Lucas museum to neighboring Northerly Island something that Lucas is also ponying up the money for.
The Chron's architecture critic John King surmises that Lucas is actually setting aside his own personal tastes in an effort to woo Chicagoans to approve of his project, especially when there's already a movement afoot to oppose the museum by open-space advocates.
The best bet is that Lucas - who was courted tenaciously by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel - accepts the need to craft a museum that wouldn't reflect his personal tastes so much as the love for brawny modernism that is part of Chicago's DNA. This is doubly important because the museum proposal is coming under fire for its proximity to the lake.
Beyond the political expediency it might also be that, deep down, Lucas wants to prove himself - again.
Not for the money, Lord knows. Instead, the 70-year-old billionaire might want to show that he's still in the creative game. That he's still open to innovative design, and taking chances on such younger talents as Gang and MAD's Ma Yansong, whose buildings are inconceivable without the use of digital tools. Just like Lucas' special-effects breakthroughs with Industrial Light & Magic.
Just for reference, this is what he wanted to build in the Presidio originally, and at the time, a spokesman summed up the conservative, Spanish-revival design with "George loves domes." Lucas felt poo-pooed by the snobs at the Presidio Trust, who would likely have gone for something more modern and in keeping with their sustainability mission and he took to the New York Times defending his tastes.
Seriously, though, if he had hired someone awesome to design something awesome in S.F., he probably would have had an easier time of it.
Update: Oop. Also, George may be on the hook to clean up the site, which was formerly a garbage dump dating back to the 1870s.