|Tribune Tower rises toward completion in 1925 (Chicago Tribune archives)|
In announcing the competition The Tribune editorial board wrote, “North Michigan avenue presents to the new builders of Chicago an opportunity which does not often come to a city. Mr. Wrigley has made an auspicious beginning, which challenges every other builder. Beauty is one of the great needs of this city . . . The development of Michigan avenue as a majestic thoroughfare is the possible gift of the future to this city, and The Tribune hopes to do its part.”
|The Wrigley Building and the new Tribune Tower opened began the "majestic thoroughfare" that is today|
the Magnificent Mile (Chicago Tribune archives)
The competition opened on August 1, 1922 and closed 90 years ago today. The first place design would be built as the new headquarters for The Tribune “regardless of cost” and entrants in the competition could decide for themselves “in what materials their plans shall be executed.”
Ex-Governor Edward F. Dunne, a member of the Chicago plan commission, said of the competition, “I believe the offer of such a handsome reward will tempt not only the best architects in America, but many of Europe to submit plans and designs.”
Andrew Rebori, one of the outstanding architects of the era, said, “I deem the offer one of the greatest architectural opportunities ever presented. The fact that it is international in scope will work to good advantage. We need foreign ideas to prevent us from getting in a rut. American architects have opportunities to exercise their art that those across the sea haven’t had of late years.”
|The Wrigley Building (foreground) and Tribune Tower changed the north side of the river in|
just four years (Chicago Tribune archives)
Neither the judges of the competition or anyone in The Tribune organization knew who the competitors were. Each architect sent, along with his design, a sealed envelope with the firm’s name inside. The envelope was issued a number, and that number was also assigned to the plan that it accompanied.
Ten of the designs were submitted by firms to which The Tribune offered two thousand dollars apiece for their time. Included among these fortunate ten were John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood; Holabird & Roche; Jarvis Hunt; D. H. Burnham & Co.; Schmidt, Garden & Martin; and Andrew Rebori. These designs were also numbered and mixed in with the other submissions.
In an article discussing the November deadline The Tribune quoted S. C. Hirons of a New York architectural firm, Dennison & Herrin, who observed:
“Never before has a nation-wide competition entered into the construction of a home for a great daily. It will be a misfortune if some symbolic design does not win the award. There is only one true symbol of modern or ancient journalism and that is—speed. Years and years ago great news events were flashed across the country by beacon fires glowing form hill to hill. Now cables and telegraph wires carry the messages. Behind it all is one idea—speed. The Chicago Tribune building should typify this in its architecture, and the construction should be that of a building that lends itself to ‘getting the news to the readers.’ Such a building would mark a new era in architectural design for newspaper homes.”
|The most controversial aspect of the winning design, the great Gothic top of|
John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, not exactly a symbol of speed (JWB, 2010)
That day The Tribune put forth this message in an editorial, “Meanwhile the exhibition of the designs will prove, we feel sure, a milestone in architectural education. Nothing of the kind has ever been offered to students and lovers of architecture up to this time. The designs, collectively speaking, are the most important expression of modern utilitarian architecture ever presented for analysis and comparison. The exhibition may be considered an encyclopedia of the architecture of the skyscraper. Genius, exceptional talent, experience, ingenuity, and inspiration have contributed richly and we are confident its influence will be widespread and lasting.”
|One of the designers, Raymond Hood, pictured as Robin Hood in Aesop's screen that tops the Michigan Avenue|
entrance of the tower (Google image)
On December 3 a dinner to celebrate the award at which Mr. Howells observed that the commission for The Tribune was a unique opportunity, primarily because of the lot on which it would be built, a space which would show the entire building, all four sides of it. “. . . how can a perfect skyscraper design be achieved,” he asked. “Only when you have a building with four sides belonging to the same owner. How many such opportunities are there in the world? You can count them on your fingers.”
|Uniquely situated on a spacious lot so that all four sides of the building could be|
viewed originally, the design was one of few such opportunities in a large city (JWB, 2011)
As if to answer from the very first the severest criticism leveled at the design, Mr. Howells, recognizing this Gothic orientation, added, “ . . . but it is meant to be a design expressing to the limit our American steel cage construction, and nothing else . . . I believe that the type of design chosen by The Tribune expresses not only the American office building but the actual steel cage, with its vertical steel columns from top to bottom and its interpolated steel beams.”
|Was Howells right about that steel cage? You be the judge. (JWB, 2011)|
As 1922 came to a close, the design for the new tower on Michigan Avenue was on display at the Lake Shore Trust and Savings Bank on the northeast corner of North Michigan Avenue and Ohio streets. On display with it was the great energy and optimism that would carry the country through that decade, one of the greatest decades for building in the city’s history.