Chica­go Fed­er­al Plaza, Calder’s Flamingo

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Alexander Calder's steel stabile "Flamingo" was the first work of art commissioned under the General Service Administration's Art in Architecture Program in 1974. The sculpture's vermilion color and 53-foot tall organic form serves as a counterfoil to the surrounding three prominent Mies Van der Rohe federal office buildings in Chicago's Federal Plaza. In its initial installation, it was not lighted for viewing after dark.

The lighting of the "Flamingo" was implemented as part of a program to improve the plaza and increase security. The primary challenge was to illuminate as many surfaces and facets as possible using a reasonable quantity of fixtures. All lighting fixtures are buried in the plaza pavers and are identical: PAR38 adjustable uplights with positive locking mechanisms. Schuler Shook performed site testing to test and select the incident lighting angles, source color, and fixture locations and quantities. All of the lighting emanates from the plaza, shining up on the sculpture, which reinforces the weightless nature of the sculpture and suggests that the sculpture floats above the plaza, barely touching the ground.

The initial renovation project won an IALD Award of Merit and an IES International Illumination Design Award. IALD judges remarked that, "The graceful and beautiful pattern of the form comes alive..."

The original design used 150 watt halogen PAR lamps with spot and flood distributions. In the second renovation of the plaza, Schuler Shook replaced the lights with more energy efficient ceramic metal halide.


Chicago, IL


Harry Weese Associates / Ghafari Associates / Harboe Architects


  • IALD Award of Mer­it, 1999
  • IES Inter­na­tion­al Illu­mi­na­tion Design Award, 1999
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