George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside The Fight To Build The Lucas Museum

And then, with startling speed, he changed his mind completely, and abandoned both San Francisco and the whole idea of traditional architecture. It is hard not to feel that much of this was because of Hobson. A 49-year-old Princeton graduate who has been the president of Ariel, one of the largest African-American-owned money-management firms in the country, she appears regularly for CBS News as a contributor on financial issues, last year became the first African-American woman to head the Economic Club of Chicago, and in June was named vice-chairman of the board of Starbucks. After she married Lucas, at his Skywalker Ranch in June 2013, she began to take a bigger role in the decision-making about her husband’s dream. She recounted to me a conversation with Lucas about the Beaux-Arts building: “I said, Is this what the guy who did Star Wars should build?”

“Mellody said, If you can’t have it in your hometown, what about mine?” Lucas recalled. She had close ties to Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, who had already let it be known that he would be more than happy to give the Lucas Museum a home, and promised Lucas and Hobson that Chicago would not subject them to the nit-picking demands of San Francisco. Emanuel organized a site-selection committee to review locations, and in June 2014 he offered Lucas a 17-acre parcel alongside Lake Michigan occupied by parking lots for the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field. Lucas liked it, and the mayor announced with excitement that “Chicago, the most American of American cities,” was the new location for the Lucas Museum. Lucas and Hobson then ditched the Urban Design Group and its traditional building and this time managed to stage the competition Lucas said he had wanted in the first place. In Chicago, a city with a great heritage of modernist architecture, all talk of traditional design disappeared. Lucas and Hobson invited several of the world’s leading architects, including Zaha Hadid as well as Shohei Shigematsu, of Rem Koolhaas’s OMA, to submit proposals for what would now be a determinedly avant-garde building. This time, Lucas would have his Sydney Opera House.