Happy Birthday, Millennium Park

Imagine: a summer evening, an expansive green lawn, the magnificent Chicago skyline succumbing to dusk. Music, architecture, and diversity surround you. In the distance, children laugh and squeal at the chasing fountain mist, and in the periphery, a giant silver bean offers a slightly altered reflection of all of this. Tourists and city dwellers alike amble by, taking it all in.

You are in Millennium Park, of course, and it’s hard to imagine ever tiring of the place, its offerings, its top-notch people watching. Harder still is it to imagine this city without this park. From the moment it arrived, it felt like it had always been.


Ten years ago this month, HMR had the pleasure to be an integral part of the park’s debut celebration. We caught up with Bill Heffernan to reminisce about his design concepts from this exciting summer affair.


The considerations: to introduce all of the art and nature involved in the creation of Millennium Park without competing with it.

The elements:
A neutral palette: greens, white and silver.

Artistry: Twelve water walls and six boxwood sculptures, each 24 feet tall.

Natural: Southern Magnolia tree branches galore, arranged in tree-form.

All of the above were all brought together within a massive clear tent, allowing the park to be a part of its own party.

The biggest challenge of the execution: the complete transformation of the giant tent–set for 1,000 guests–from dinner to an afterparty in 45 minutes while the guests stepped out to tour the grounds. A massive endeavor, indeed!

In the end, the party went off without a hitch, and Millennium Park has continued to be something to celebrate ever since. Bill’s favorite thing about the park: “the overwhelming success of drawing people from every walk of life to a common place to enjoy some of the best parts of our city.”

Millenium Park opening gala water wall day

Millennium Park opening gala day room shot

Millennium Park opening gala boxwood day

Millennium Park opening gala water wall night

Millennium Park opening gala night

Millennium Park