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Chicago’s BP Pedestrian Bridge at Millennium Park

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If you’re ever in Chicago, check out Millennium Park, where you’ll find a fantastic collection of art and architecture. One of the highlights is the BP Pedestrian Bridge, a unique and stunning piece of engineering.

The bridge is the sinuous flowing work of award-winning architect Frank Gehry. It is a masterpiece, possibly the most recognizable and influential style in contemporary architecture. Gehry is famously responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California.

BP Pedestrian Bridge

Sunset view of Chicago skyline from Millennium Park with urban architecture and bridge.
EyesTravelling – stock.adobe.com

The BP bridge is a stunning architecture that spans Millennium Park in Chicago and resembles a giant silver snake. The bridge is among the best Chicago tourist attractions and was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry.

It comprises a hollow stainless steel skeleton and a stainless steel sheet that shimmers in the sun with a complex geometric layout. The girder footbridge is also incredibly functional, providing a safe way for pedestrians to cross the busy street below. The BP Pedestrian Bridge is one of Millennium Park’s most popular attractions, often drawing large crowds of visitors to admire its beauty.

The winding bridge is a true masterpiece of engineering, providing a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else. The bridge offers stunning overlooking views of the Chicago skyline, Lake Michigan, Historic Michigan Boulevard District, and Grant Park.

Visitors can enjoy unobstructed panoramic views of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks while walking across the bridge. Architect Terry Guen makes most of the landscapes surrounding the girder footbridge.

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History and Construction

Sunny Chicago skyline view from Millennium Park bridge, wooden pathway, urban cityscape, blue sky.
romanslavik.com – stock.adobe.com

The BP Bridge is a bridge that crosses Columbus Drive at Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois. It was designed by architect Frank Gehry and engineer Ron Klemencic and completed in 2004. The bridge is 163 meters (535 feet) long and 9 meters (30 feet) wide stainless steel plates, with a main span of 102 meters (335 feet).

The BP Corporation commissioned the bridge and band shell for the Millennium Park project sponsorship. Gehry’s design was chosen from a competition held in 2001, and construction began in 2002. The BP Bridge was completed on schedule, under budget, and opened to the public in 2004.

In 2004, Chicago was added to the list of cities hosting Gehry’s iconic architecture with the opening of the redesigned Millennium Park on Chicago’s downtown lakefront.

In addition to the park’s Pritzker Concert Pavilion, Gehry created a stunning pedestrian bridge called the BP Bridge to connect Millennium Park to the Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

The bridge has been praised for its elegant design and successful integration with the surrounding parkland. It has won numerous awards, including the 2005 Outstanding Structure Award from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering.

The bridge is popular with pedestrians and cyclists, who use it to cross Columbus Drive and access the park. It is also used by the Chicago Transit Authority’s ‘L’ train, which travels over the bridge to and from Millennium Park station.

See Related: Places to Visit in Illinois

How to Get There

Gehry-designed bridge at Millennium Park with Chicago skyline backdrop on a sunny day
romanslavik.com – stock.adobe.com

To get there, take the CTA Red Line to the Monroe stop. Walk east to Michigan Avenue and then north to the bridge. The BP Bridge spans the Chicago River, connecting Millennium Park to Maggie Daley Park.

The bridge comprises two curved ramps that come together at a central plaza. The bridge splits into two separate bridges, one for pedestrians and one for cyclists. The pedestrian bridge is wider than the cyclist bridge, making it more accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.

See Related: Day Trips from Chicago, Illinois

What to See

Sleek, contemporary, and multipurpose

Arial View of Millennium Park

In designing this 925-foot-long structure, Gehry transformed the simple concept into a gleaming, winding work of art. The bridge’s serpentine shape is reinforced by its 10,000 brushed stainless steel bridge materials and panels resembling the scales of a giant silver snake — although Gehry has described the BP Bridge as a kind of river.

The fluid, curving walkway is covered in 2,000 floorboards made of Brazilian hardwood. Visitors walking along the way can enjoy unparalleled views of Chicago’s skyline, the nearby Millennium Park, and the shores of Lake Michigan.

The bridge’s gentle 5 percent grade makes it utterly accessible to wheelchairs. In addition to supplying a much-needed connection between downtown and the lakefront, it creates a sound barrier protecting the Pritzker Pavilion and Millennium Park from traffic noise on the eight lanes of Columbus Drive below.

The controversy surrounding the BP Pedestrian Bridge

Scenic view of Millennium Park Bridge with Chicago skyline.
dencaLE – stock.adobe.com

Despite great reviews from critics worldwide, the BP Bridge has not been without controversy — this is Chicago, after all. Its beautiful Brazilian hardwood walkways can’t withstand the damage caused by rock salt, and since the BP Bridge passes directly over Columbus Drive, there’s no place to dump shoveled snow. For this reason, the bridge is closed to pedestrians all winter long.

It’s been closed at other times as well. Much to the dismay of visitors and the insult of local activists, the Chicago Park District has closed off the bridge and the surrounding park numerous times for high-end corporations willing to pay rent over half a million dollars for a private one-day event.

By far, the most exciting controversy surrounding the BP Bridge, however, lies in its destination. Since it opened in 2004, this stunning walkway has ended in a decidedly less attractive part of the lakefront—the Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

For years, the plaza has been undergoing a drastic redesign. Since 2011, it has been primarily piles of dirt and concrete slabs. So until 2015, when construction is slated for completion, the BP bridge will remain a bridge to nowhere.

A spectacular piece of structural sculpture and a gigantic public work of art, Frank Gehry’s Millennium Park bridge is quintessential Chicago—impassable in winter, big and bold, and an iconic and controversial addition to the City of Big Shoulders.

Things to Do in BP Pedestrian Bridge

There are many fun things to do while visiting BP Pedestrian Bridge; check this out.

  • Admire the views of the Chicago skyline, parks, and Lake Michigan from the bridge
  • Take a walk or a bike ride across the bridge
  • Take a side trip to Grant Park
  • Rent a paddleboat or kayak from Chicago and explore the river up close
  • Enjoy a meal or a drink at one of the many restaurants and bars in the area
  • Shop at the nearby Magnificent Mile shopping district
  • Catch a Chicago sunset
  • Take a selfie in front of BP Bridge, stunning architecture
  • Stroll through the park’s gardens
  • Enjoy an outdoor concert at the neighboring Jay Pritzker Pavilion
  • Get ice cream from Maggie Daley Park

BP Pedestrian Bridge Nearby Attractions

Maggie Daley Park

Trail at Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park, Chicago” by danxoneil is marked with CC BY 2.0.

The park is a 20-acre public park in the Loop community of Chicago, Illinois. The park opened in 2004 and was named after Maggie Daley, the wife of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.

See Related: Things to Do in Bloomington, Illinois

Daley Bicentennial Plaza

Building of Daley Bicentennial Plaza
Daley Bicentennial Plaza” by orijinal is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Daley Bicentennial Plaza is a public square in the Loop community area of downtown Chicago, Illinois. It was named in honor of former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley and his father, Richard J. Daley.

The plaza is home to several sculptures, including a statue of Harold Washington, the city’s first African American mayor, and two abstract metal sculptures by Columbus, Ohio-based artist Tom Otterness.

See Related: Best Chicago Walking Tours

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Chicago skyline view from Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion - urban splendor (source: [Yoast](https://yoast.com/image-seo-alt-tag-and-title-tag-optimization/))
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a component of Chicago’s Millennium Park, built to celebrate the city’s millennium anniversary. The pavilion is an outdoor concert venue with a distinctive metallic design. It has been used for various events, including music concerts, political rallies, and private functions.

Art Institute of Chicago

American Gothic by Grant Wood at the Art Institute of Chicago
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-renowned art museum in downtown Chicago’s heart. The museum features an impressive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art and works by American artists such as Grant Wood and Edward Hopper.

The museum also has an extensive modern and contemporary art collection, including pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Andy Warhol. Skip the line with a guided tour ticket is available.

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate sculpture reflecting Chicago skyline and park, overcast atmosphere, sRGB colors.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean, is a public sculpture by Anish Kapoor in Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois. The monument is made of 168 highly polished stainless steel plates. It is 33 feet (10 meters) long by 66 feet (20 meters) high and weighs 110 short tons (100 metric tons).

The Cloud Gate reflected the city’s sky and buildings when it was first installed. However, the surface has become more reflective over time due to the accumulation of pigeon droppings.

Tours of the Cloud Gate are available, but they must be booked in advance. The sculpture is popular with tourists and locals and is one of the most photographed landmarks in Chicago.

Buckingham Fountain

Night Lights and Buckingham Fountain

The Buckingham Fountain is a popular tourist destination in Chicago. It is located in the center of Grant Park and features a large-scale spraying water display. The fountain was built in 1927 and was named after Buckingham Palace in London.

See Related: Bizzare Chicago Attractions

Field Museum

Dinosaur and Elephant Skeleton Exhibit

The Field Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chicago. It is located on the city’s south side and houses an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits worldwide. The museum is home to various exhibitions on ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, and animals.

Shedd Aquarium

Building of Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium is one of Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations, with over two million visitors annually. It’s home to over 32,000 animals, including fish, sea turtles, dolphins, seals, and penguins.  The aquarium has various interactive exhibits, including the Abbott Oceanarium, one of the world’s most significant indoor marine mammal habitats.

Shedd Aquarium is an indoor public aquarium located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The aquarium contains over 1,500 fish species, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Mission to the Shedd Aquarium is free with a suggested donation. You can explore the attractions and other destinations in Chicago with a Chicago CityPASS.

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium is a public planetarium and astronomy museum located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The planetarium houses a collection of over 30,000 objects, including the world’s most extensive collection of antique telescopes.

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