Wednesday, January 16, 2008

ChicagoRound: Chicago River, north shore

I love this block where State Street crosses the Chicago River. It houses a fabulous juxtaposition of architectural styles and shapes and ideas.

The roundish buildings in the center of the picture are Bertrand Goldberg's iconic 1964 Marina City towers. Known colloquially as Chicago's corncob buildings, they're most famous to people of a certain generation as the implied office location of Bob Newhart's psychology practice. The twin 65-story towers contain a collective 900 pie-shaped condominiums with semi-circular balconies atop two 19-story spiral parking ramps. The complex comprises two other organically shaped buildings: a mid-rise hotel supported by abstract Gothic arches (hidden by the towers in this picture) and the saddle-shaped House of Blues concert hall, which you can see crouching in the bottom left corner. (Incidentally, the sharp corner sticking up over the House of Blues is my old office building.)

In stark, austere contrast to Marina City's explosion of curves and shapes and movement, the square building to the right (on the other side of State Street) is Mies van der Rohe's 330 North Wabash building (originally the IBM Building). It was finished in 1973, four years after van der Rohe died. This modernist black-box aesthetic clearly espouses van der Rohe's "less is more" philosophy: efficient construction, modern industrial materials, simple rectilinear and planar forms, clean lines, pure use of color and—above all—a conspicuous lack of ornamentation.

The building at the far right is Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's still-under-construction Trump International Hotel and Tower. Slated for completion in 2009, it promises to become the second tallest building in Chicago, after the Sears Tower. While I loath almost everything about the building's blowhard namesake, I'm really liking this gracefully curved, tastefully shimmery highrise. And I love the way its three setbacks will nod to the heights of the buildings around it: the Wrigley Building, the Marina City towers and 330 North Wabash.

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