Thursday, July 21, 2011

Photo of the Week: Triple Play

Marina City, 330 North Wabash and Trump Tower - three good neighbors
(JWB, 2011)

Walking around the city, I suppose I’ll always look like I just rolled in from Farmville.  I don’t move quick, and I spend most of my time looking skyward.  No fast-paced stride, staring at some fixed point a half-block ahead, for me.

There’s just too much to see up high, where the details imagined on some designer’s drawing board are spread across fantastic structures in an endless display.

When I was younger, one of my friends said to me, “If you’re going to look up at those buildings all the time, could you at least keep your mouth closed?”

I’ve worked on his suggestion, and for the most part have been successful at avoiding the gape-jawed stare of a delegate just in from Waterloo for the corrugated box convention.

But there is some way cool stuff if you just bother to look up for it.

The other night I got an invite from a good friend to attend a small gathering on the 54th floor of Marina City’s west tower.  During the evening, with a glass of good Cabernet in hand, I rode up to the top of the building and got a look at one of the great views in Chicago.

Here, two classic designs and one that I am sure will stand the test of time line up for a portrait.

Nearest the camera, the east tower of Marina City, finished in the mid-1960’s, stands as the embodiment of Bertrand Goldberg’s architectural philosophy.  He saw the city as a positive force and designed his residential buildings to proclaim the (at that time) wasted potential of the central city as a dynamic force for folks bold enough to take up residence there.  This was the first major residential project in the central part of Chicago.  When it was completed, 85 percent of its occupants walked to their jobs.

In the middle is the last project of Mies van der Rohe, originally the Chicago headquarters for IBM, now 330 North LaSalle.  Finished in 1971, this is the tallest of Mies’s structures in the United States and the embodiment of the mid-century modern style.  Upon his arrival in Chicago in 1938, Mies said, “The long path from material through function to creative work has only a single goal:  to create order out of the desperate confusion of our time.”  There is n-o-t-h-i-n-g desperately confusing about this design.

And farthest east stands Trump Tower, Adrian Smith’s gift to the river.  Reflecting that river and the noble towers on both sides of it, Trump moved in, determined to be a good neighbor.  It narrows three times in its 92-story rise and each setback is scaled to respect those in the neighborhood.  The base of Trump matches the height of the Wrigley Building without the clock tower.  The second setback matches the height of Golberg’s circular towers, and the final setback begins at the height of Mies van der Rohe’s 330 North Wabash.

My mouth may have been closed a week ago, but my eyes were wide open as I looked out at these three great towers, arranged by date of birth, bold and beautiful next to the narrow river that runs through this gentle giant of a city. 

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