Friday, September 18, 2009

ChicagoRound: AT&T Corporate Center

Here’s my reward for getting up at 5:45 every morning to meet my trainer: a glorious, neck-straining view of Chicago's tallest building peeking out from behind its fifth-tallest building as the sun rises over the steel-and-stone canyons of the Loop:

That’s Willis Tower (née Sears Tower) in the center. At 108 floors, it’s the tallest building in the United States and the seventh tallest building in the world. Completed in 1974, it comprises nine square tubes bundled into a 3x3 footprint and rising to different heights with dramatic, efficient setbacks. You can clearly see the two tallest tubes in this picture ... though from this perspective they don't look at all like they tower over the city.

(The next three tallest Chicago buildings in order are the brand-new 96-floor Trump International Hotel and Tower, the 83-floor Aon Center and the 100-floor John Hancock Center.)

The building on the right is the fifth-tallest building in Chicago and the taller half of the 61-story AT&T Corporate Center complex, which is actually two buildings (the other is the 35-story USG Building) connected by a grand (and I mean over-the-top, Art-Deco-meets-Prairie, worth-a-stop-to-stare-up-and-gawk grand) 16-story atrium.

Constructed in 1989, the AT&T Corporate Center effortlessly represents the personality and exuberance of postmodern architecture. It takes the clean, efficient aesthetics of modernism and elevates them beyond the movement's midcentury austerity with ornament, technique and stylistic references. Obviously the dominant reference here is Art Deco, with soaring verticals, pale colors, dramatic setbacks and low-relief detailing.

Here’s a shot I stole off the Internet showing the complex from the USG Building side. Notice how the vertical channel in the center of each face expands as it rises—a fabulous twist on standard Art Deco detail that makes the building seem both taller and wider:

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