First look at George Lucas’ space-age art museum

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(CNN) — No, you’re not looking at an idyllic scene from pre-Death Star Alderaan. This futuristic building is the plan for George Lucas’ $300-million art museum on Chicago’s lakefront.

Beijing-based MAD Architects and Chicago firm Studio Gang have released artist renderings of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art that wouldn’t look out of place in its namesake’s ‘Star Wars’ franchise.

The avant garde structure, set to open in 2018, will have three levels of exhibition space topped by an observation deck with panoramic views of the city and Lake Michigan. Inspired by the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (both of whom designed buildings in Chicago), it’s meant to evoke a disc floating above the surrounding harbor.

“Its uninterrupted stone surfaces are as primitive as it is futuristic, evoking the great achievements of architectural history,” MAD wrote on its website. “More than a building, it is an urban vista for social interaction, bringing people closer to each other and to nature.”

The building was conceived by MAD founder Ma Yansong, who is best known for the curvy Absolute Towers — nicknamed the Marilyn Monroe towers — built just outside of Toronto, Canada. Studio Gang have designed the 17 acre plot’s landscape, and will design a bridge connecting the plot to nearby Northerly Island. VOA Associates, also from Chicago, will lead the building’s implementation.

The Lucas Museum will showcase images that are used for storytelling, from comics and children’s books to digital art and film. The permanent collection will feature works from Lucas’ personal collection, which is estimated to be worth $600 million and includes Norman Rockwell paintings, Alberto Vargas pin-ups and, yes, original props from ‘Star Wars.’ The museum will also host temporary exhibitions, lectures and educational programming.

It joins a series of other Chicago institutions in the area, including the Alder Planetarium and Field Museum of Natural History.

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