Time for reflection: The Bean reopens after months of construction

Chicago’s famous “Cloud Gate” sculpture, also known as “the Bean,” reopened to the public Sunday after nearly a year of construction. Tourists and locals alike flocked to the iconic sculpture, snapping photos and touching their metal reflections.

The city began construction on Grainger Plaza, which surrounds the sculpture at 201 E. Randolph St., in August 2023.

“I was here last winter when it was closed off, and it was so desolate and sad, so it’s great to see it’s open now,” said Jace Smethurst, who’s visiting from Los Angeles. “Its geometry is beautiful, especially with all the buildings reflecting off it. It’s cool they could make something so grand and so smooth.”

The project included a rebuild of the plaza podium, adding new stairs, accessible ramps and a waterproofing system, according to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Construction was initially set to end in the spring.

“The Bean” debuted in 2004. The 110-ton sculpture was created “using computer technology to cut 168 massive stainless steel-plates into precise shapes, which were pieced together like a puzzle and welded shut.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Alyson Ceale and her father, Richard, who are visiting from Arizona, stopped by to see the Bean on Friday and were disappointed to find large fences blocking their view. When they learned it reopened, they decided to stop by the landmark again before heading to a Cubs game, Alyson Ceale said.

“This is our first time seeing the Bean,” she said. “I thought it’d be smaller. A lot of landmarks seem bigger in photos, but this definitely lives up to the hype.” Her father added, “I like how accessible it is for everyone.”

The plaza is still undergoing some landscaping improvements, but that work will not impact access to “Cloud Gate,” city officials said.

Jax Arroyo’s family drove from Joliet when they learned the Bean had reopened so they could show it to a relative from Belgium who’s visiting for the weekend, the 15-year-old said.

“We’ve been coming here since I was a little kid, and I always used to think it was so cool because it’s giant,” Jax said. “Now that I’m older, I’m more interested in its unique architecture since it’s just so different. I’m really glad we were able to stop by while we’re showing my mom’s cousin around.”

The famed sculpture was created by the artist Anish Kapoor and originally unveiled in 2004. The 110-ton sculpture was created “using computer technology to cut 168 massive stainless steel-plates into precise shapes that were pieced together like a puzzle and welded shut,” according to Millenium Park Foundation’s website.

The plaza has opened just in time for Millennium Park’s 20th anniversary celebration, set to take place across the park July 18-21.

“The Bean really is such a staple of the city,” Smethurst said. “It’s a cool gathering space and great to see how it can bring so many people together.”

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