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Burnham Pavilion Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

June 16, 2010 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Burnham Pavilion in Chicago has earned national recognition in the 2010 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2), and members of the project team were presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a public ceremony in Millennium Park on Wednesday, June 16. Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievements in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects around the country.

Project team members include owner Burnham Plan Centennial Committee, Chicago; architect UNStudio, Amsterdam; associate architect Garofalo Architects Inc., Chicago; structural engineer Rockey Structures, LLC, Oak Park, Ill.; general contractor Third Coast Construction, Chicago; Consultant Dear Productions, Inc., Oak Park, Ill.

The Burnham Pavilion is a Merit Winner in the category of projects Less than $15 Million, making it one of only four projects around the country to earn an award in this classification. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel, with an emphasis on creative solutions to project requirements; design innovation; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of steel; the use of innovative design and construction methods; and sustainable design.

“It immediately strikes a chord with the viewer in the downtown park setting of Chicago,” said Todd Alwood, LEED AP, manager of certification business development, AISC, Chicago, and a judge in the competition.

The Burnham Pavilion was one of two temporary pavilions constructed in Chicago’s Millennium Park to celebrate the centennial of the Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett Plan for Chicago. The project consisted of two large white planes, one of which served as an elevated walking surface, while the other was a widespread cantilevered roof. The two planes were joined by three large “scoops” that met with the roof to form openings in the roof plane, which frame predetermined views of the Chicago skyline.

“It is a beautiful sculptural work,” commented Mitchell Hirsch, AIA, principal, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, New Haven, Conn., and a judge in the competition. “Only the use of steel design and construction allows the horizontal planes to appear to float and the organic scoops to exist. The materiality and lighting are simple and elegant. It’s an extraordinary structure for the community and Millennium Park, and it appears to work very well with ‘The Bean’.”

Both the upper and lower planes used W18 sections on an axis skewed from orthogonal to accommodate the three large scoop openings. Each scoop housed three 8-in. A53 Grade B pipes inclined at an average angle of 48 degrees from vertical to fit within the envelope of the scoop. The entire pavilion structure was framed with 49 tons of structural steel and infilled with plywood ribs, had a 45-ft, 6-in. by 52-ft, 6-in. footprint and a maximum height of 19 ft, 6 in., with a total cost of roughly $1 million.

Coordination among design architects, architects of record, and the fabricator was vital to keep the steel structure within the envelope of the pavilion’s unique dually curving form. Due to the short time frame of the project, electronic 3-D models had to be passed back and forth between offices with care and precision. Good communication among all parties and multiple software programs allowed detection of problem areas (cladding and structural interference) and ensured a smooth construction process.

The Burnham Pavilion was completed on schedule and within budget, and opened to the public June 19, 2009.

The 12 IDEAS2 winners for 2010 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received by architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 awards are the highest project-based awards bestowed by the structural steel industry, with the annual program dating back over 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E. president of AISC, said, “The entire Burnham Pavilion project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a pavilion that serves the public extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

Photos of the Burnham Pavilion are available upon request. Please contact Tasha O’Berski at 312.670.5439 or [email protected].


For more information contact:

Tasha O'Berski
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]


American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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