As my favorite places go, the grand old building once home to the Chicago Public Library, gets my top vote. Now known as the Chicago Cultural Center, it sits proudly on Michigan Avenue with entrances on Washington and Randolph Streets.
In the summer, its splendid front yard will pull you in like quicksand if you let it, but face facts: Millennium Park is gorgeous without walls. A step into the Cultural Center brings to you the rooms, galleries, and inside performance spaces once reserved for books. You'll feel no obligation to whisper, though, and you might just gasp with joy at an exhibit, a concert, a panel discussion or in its area designated as a Chicago Visitor Center which is brimming with ideas of things to do in the city.
As of July 1, there is a new star in the surprise category: the original 1897 glass dome over the former library's circulation delivery desk has become an important destination. The $2.2 million restoration of the space, which covers more square footage than the average downtown efficiency condominium, was completed in late June.
While there is no doubt that this product of the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company was crafted under Louis Comfort Tiffany's leadership, Charles A. Coolidge was its supervising architect. The work contains "the nuance, finish and attention to detail (that) was thoroughly Tiffany," according to the major handout available on-site at the Cultural Center.
"Glasswork and mosaics were fabricated in Tiffany's New York studio by the Women's Glass Cutting Department, headed by Clara Driscoll, a gifted designer and artisan. Like most Tiffany employees, Driscoll worked anonymously and only recently has been identified as the designer of many of the studio's most prized and valuable lamps," the handout continues.
Welcome to the largest Louis Comfort Tiffany art glass dome in the world.
Watch it change as the natural light pours through the art glass panels.
Imagine the statistics:
• The Tiffany Dome is 38 feet in diameter.
• 30,000 pieces of glass fill its cast iron frame.
• It is the world's largest Louis Comfort Tiffany glass dome.
• Only about 2% of the glass pieces had to be replaced in the restoration project.
• The new translucent, exterior dome is made of thee layers of insulated/laminated glass 11/4-inches thick.
The natural light shining through the dome had been missing since the 1930s when a concrete and copper exterior dome was added. After it was removed last January, the new dome allowed the light to work upon the interior stained glass and subtly change and glow. A white PVB layer reduced UV light - a true intersection of art and engineering.
This destination is just part of the Chicago Cultural Center - its Preston Bradley Hall to be exact. It's open to the public daily with special summer docent-led tours at 2 p.m. on Sundays in August .
On other days, people wander into the hall and stare, shoot photos and sit on common black chairs to soak in the new, uncommon brilliance above.