The Sheraton Hot Spring Resort, or "Moon Hotel," in Huzhou, China, designed by Ma Yasong. Ma has been tapped to help design George Lucas' museum in Chicago. Reuters/Sean Yong

May the force be with a hot team of noted architects as they try to sell the city on their notoriously experimental designs. 

George Lucas gave the first inkling today of what his controversial museum in Chicago might look like when it opens in 2018. Ma Yasong, of the Beijing-based MAD Architects, will design the main building of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Jeanne Gang, who runs local firm Studio Gang, will handle the landscape design and a pedestrian bridge.

The choices immediately raised eyebrows in architecture circles. The Star Wars director’s art collection is a kitschy assemblage of Americana and white-bread commercial work, and the original proposal for the museum, in San Francisco’s Presidio, reflected that conservatism in its neoclassical form. But Ma—a rising star in China and, increasingly, the West—favors swelling, futuristic towers that practically drip with the algorithms used to design them. Gang is a well-regarded architect best known for Chicago’s Aqua skyscraper, a residential tower whose facade undulates like fabric.

“I, and I’m sure many others, were indeed expecting a more conservative architecture team,” Alexandra Lange, a prominent architecture critic, told Quartz. “Rewatching Episodes 1-3  (as I recently did) is a 'Where’s Waldo?' of early 20th-century architecture, with references to Frank Lloyd Wright, Art Deco trains, and one of Lucas’s favorite painters, Maxfield Parrish, who never met a neoclassical loggia he didn’t like.”

But Lucas already had a bruising fight over the proposed San Francisco design (which was rejected in February), and he faces substantial opposition in Chicago: Bears fans are worried about lost parking, aldermen want the site relocated to a poorer neighborhood, and activists argue that the museum will threaten public space near Lake Michigan. The choice of Ma and Gang could be a canny one if it convinces Chicagoans that they’ll be getting a landmark.

“If the architects produce a design gem that upgrades the landscape of the Museum Campus, the cluster of shoreline museums to which the Lucas Museum would belong, it could soften, or at least blunt, opposition,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic, Blair Kamin.

“The choice of MAD and Jeanne Gang may indicate some sort of coming together between retro-futurism and today’s futurism, linked by a love of curves and ripples,” Lange says. “I also think Lucas is good at politics, and knows what works in the Presidio isn’t going to fly in Chicago.”

The Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, argues that Lucas has overshot in the other direction, describing the selection as an “odd, lurching overreaction.”

The design will be unveiled at the end of the year, and the museum is scheduled to open four years later.

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

MORE FROM QUARTZ:

Why Ebola Reaching Nigeria’s Largest City Is a Whole New Level of Scary

The Billionaires Set to Get Even Richer on the Dollar-Store Mega-Merger

Here Are the 3D-Printed Things You Can Buy on Amazon

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Two men plant a young tree in a lot in Detroit.
    Environment

    Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting

    Detroiters were refusing city-sponsored “free trees.” A researcher found out the problem: She was the first person to ask them if they wanted them.

  2. a photo of a man surveying a home garage.
    Transportation

    How Single-Family Garages Can Ease California's Housing Crisis

    Given the affordable housing crisis, California cities should encourage single-family homeowners to convert garages into apartments and accessory dwelling units.

  3. Transportation

    Electric Scooters Aren’t a Transportation Revolution Yet

    New data show a staggering rise in shared dockless e-scooter use nationwide. But commuting habits have seen little change since the dawn of micromobility.

  4. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  5. a rendering of the moon village with a view of Earth
    Design

    Designing the First Full-Time Human Habitat on the Moon

    SOM, in partnership with the ESA and MIT, wants to accommodate research and maybe even tourism on the moon.