Cloud Gate commonly known as ‘The Bean’ Photo by Jansen Miller on Unsplash

Top 10 Astonishing Facts About Cloud Gate


Cloud Gate is a giant stainless-steel public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor. It is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at the Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois.

It is Kapoor’s first public outdoor work in the United States. ‘Cloud Gate’ is the work by which he is best known in the country.

This major artistic installation was nicknamed “The Bean” because of its shape. Unveiled in 2006, two years after Millennium Park opened, this massive sculpture is an essential stop on almost everyone’s Chicago tour.

Here are facts about Cloud Gate.

1. The Size and Cost of the Bean

The bean is 33 feet high, 66 feet long, and 42 feet wide. It also has a central arch that people can walk under, which is 12 feet high. It weighs approximately 110 tons, or about the same as a Boeing 757 airliner.

The cost for the piece was first estimated at 6 million dollars. This amount had escalated to 11.5 million dollars by the time the park opened in 2004. By the time Cloud gate was Unveiled in 2006, the final figure stood at 23 million dollars. 

2. Inspiration and Naming of Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate during the day. Photo by Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash

Kapoor’s design was inspired by a drop of liquid mercury. He wanted to make something that would engage the Chicago skyline. He wanted to see the clouds floating and those very tall buildings reflected in the work.

The official title of this public art sculpture is “Cloud Gate” because 80% of the steel sculpture’s surface reflects the sky and bends it on both sides into a “gate” shape.

The shiny exterior of the Bean perfectly reflects and distorts the surrounding skyline, green space, and people moving around the park. These reflections change depending on one’s position.

3. There is a Restaurant Under Cloud Gate

Aerial view of a section of Millennium Park. Photo by Muzammil Soorma on Unsplash

AT&T Plaza and Cloud Gate sit on top of a 300-seat restaurant called Park Grill. This eatery is the only full-service restaurant in Millennium Park and eating here allows one to admire the surrounding architecture passively.

Park Grill has a menu that is mostly traditional American food and a few international influences. Their hamburgers are highly rated with several magazines calling them ‘the best burgers in Chicago’.

The restaurant was also noted as one of the “99 Best of Chicago,” named under the category of “Best Restaurants with a View” in Night+Day Chicago.

The location under ‘the bean’ is conveniently close to the business district thus making Park Grill one of Chicago’s best restaurants for business dining.

4. 168 Plates Welded Together

The Bean is completely made up of stainless steel. It was created by putting together 168 massive steel plates and welding them shut to create a seamless finish.

The interior is made up of two large metal rings that are connected by a framework. This framework is like what you see on a bridge. It allows the weight of the sculpture to be on the two endpoints thus the “bean shape”.

The Bean’s stainless-steel exterior is connected to the frame with flexible connectors. These connectors allow the plates to expand and contract depending on weather changes without causing damage.

5. The Interior is Mostly Wooden

Beautiful view of The Bean. Photo by Antonio Gabola on Unsplash

While Cloud Gate was being constructed, there was an architect’s desk and workspace set up inside the sculpture!

The entrance was a hole on the underside of The Bean directly above where people stare when they walk under the sculpture.

When considering building materials, stainless steel for the interior was rejected. Heating during the day followed by cooling at night might well have led to cracks or other imperfections appearing on the sculpture’s surface.

Borrowing from the shipbuilding industry, The Engineers selected a wooden structure that could expand and contract with temperature changes.

Under the mirror-polished surface of the Bean, are wooden framing components that keep the overall structure standing. The interior was designed in such a way as to avoid structural overload at any one point.

6. It is one of Millennium Park’s Main Attraction

Millennium Park is a public park located in the Loop community area of Chicago City. The park features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and various other attractions. 

Cloud Gate is a major attraction at this park. It has free admission and is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. 

7. The Bean at Night and Early Morning

Evening Image of ‘the Bean’ Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

The Bean is not only spectacular during the day, but its reflective surface is lovely even after dark. Night-time shots can be spectacular with the lights from the buildings looking beautiful.

Very early morning, before sunrise, you can get pictures of this sculpture that change from dark to blue hour to sunrise. If you are lucky, your photos at this hour will not have a lot of people on them.

8. Cleaning the Bean

Every day, Cloud Gate accumulates sweat, grease, fingerprint grime, or shoe dirt from the countless visitors who touch it. 

Its cleaning schedule varies by season, but the maintenance crew wipes the lower, touchable parts several times a day and gives it a power wash at night.

Deep detailed cleaning of the entire sculpture takes place twice a year where 150 litres of liquid detergent is used.

9. Films and Music Videos

The sculpture has been used as a backdrop in commercials, movies, and more. Cloud Gate is easy on the eye, and many famous filmmakers want to include it in their projects.

It appeared in movies like The Break-Up, Source Code, Nights and Weekends, The Vow, and others. It has also been featured in books, video games, and music videos like Kanye West’s “Homecoming”.

10. Cloud Gate Under a Tent

Cloud Gate at sunrise. Photo by Kevin Olson on Unsplash

When construction of the shell began in June 2004, a large tent was erected around the piece to shield it from public view. The piece was temporarily uncovered on 8th July for the grand opening of Millennium Park on 15th July 2004.

The public appreciated the piece so much that park officials left it uncovered for several months. The tent was again erected in January 2005 as it was been polished to seal the seams between each plate.

Cloud Gate was finally completed and officially unveiled and dedicated on 15th May 2006. Chicago Mayor at the time, Richard M. Daley, declared the day of the sculpture’s dedication to being “Cloud Gate Day”.

The Bean has become a popular piece of public art and is now a fixture on many souvenirs such as postcards, sweatshirts, and posters.