jay pritzker pavilion at night bathed in red light against a backdrop of the chicago skyline

Jay Pritzker Pavilion: The Centerpiece of Millennium Park

The Pritzker Pavilion was completed in July of 2004 by architect Frank Gehry. The sleek, modern bandshell finds its niche among Chicago's futuristic Millennium Park. Home to free summer concerts from Chicago's Grant Park Symphony as well as the Grant Park Music Festival, the pavilion unifies Chicago culture and architecture in this predominately open air space.

Pavilion Construction

The Pritzker Pavilion is named after Chicago's Pritzer family, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain as well as founders of The Marmon Group, a conglomerate now under Berkshire Hathaway's control. The project was commissioned with the hope of updating the old Petrillo Music Shell, the original home to the Grant Park Music Festival until 2004. Because of legal limitations on building heights in Grant Park, if the project was to come to fruition, it had to be registered as a work of art rather than function strictly as a building. After this slight hiccup, the building officially began its construction in 1999, to be finished in the summer of 2004.

Features

Under the pavilion's cover you will find 4,000 seats descending into the pit. The stage itself is set almost level with the first row audience, allowing observers to be part of the action. You will notice ruffled steel on both the sides of the stage and directly overhead, almost resembling a shiny silver Christmas bow. While the side walls allow for sound to be projected towards the 7,000 possible lawn viewers, the metal top is purely decorative. Behind the stage you can see glass windows; these are the backstage to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the venue that extends in the opposite direction from the pavilion.

Concerts

Concerts run from mid June through the middle of August, running for a total of 10 weeks. The Grant Park Music Festival is the only free classical music festival in the nation. In addition to this festival, multiple other concert series are hosted throughout the summer. These include:

  • Loops and Variations: a classical and electronica mixed series on Thursdays (early summer)
  • Downtown Sound: great acts in Indie-rock and pop (Mondays)
  • Made in Chicago: a tribute to jazz music both new and old on Thursdays (late summer)

The venue is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the Grant Park classical events happen later in the evening, usually 6:30 or 7:30 p.m. on weekends. Regardless of time of day, you are almost sure to stroll by Millennium Parks's Pritzer Pavilion and see something happening. If there aren't music performances at the time, the architecture of the bandshell is masterful enough to warrant a visit.