Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Dallas and Chicago -- Density of Design Is Sometimes Just Dense

Renzo Piano's Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas
CityLab Photo
Just finished an online article in CityLab, a daily rundown of interesting topics collected by The Atlantic Monthly, that article entitled “For the Best U.S. Architecture Per Square Mile, Head to Dallas.”  The headline got my attention right away.  The sub-headline explained, “New York has the nation’s tallest skyscraper.  Chicago has some fancy buildings.  But one city wins when it comes to sheer density of urban design.”

Chicago has some fancy buildings?  W-h-a-a-a-a- . . .

I get what the author, Kriston Capps, was going for.  Pei, Piano, Koohaas, Johnson, Foster all lined up next to one another in the Arts District of Dallas.  I’m not taking anything away from Dallas.  Norman Foster’s Opera House is magnificent.  Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center is as restrained and as respectful of its purpose as any of the great buildings his workshop has designed.

But a city is more than a new car showroom.

And in Chicago within an area of five square blocks some pretty good stuff, too.  What I keep coming back to, though, is not so much how many great buildings Chicago has or how many big names have come to the city to design them.  What impresses me is how much the buildings respect each other as well as the city in which they stand.

CitiGroup Center & 2 North Riverside Plaza
JWB Photo
Take for, example, the two buildings in the above photo – Helmut Jahn’s CitiGroup Center, completed in 1987, and Two North Riverside Plaza, formerly the home of the Chicago Daily News, designed by Holabird and Root and finished in 1929.

Is it just me?  Or do those glassy curves of the 42-story tower at 500 West Madison whisper to the stepped-back limestone at the top of the Art Deco building on the river.  The arrangement of the silvered windows on the edges of the newer building almost outline the earlier building, emphasizing its sleek lines, rather than diminishing them.

But . . . there’s more.

Where did the curves of Helmut Jahn’s design start?  In another building just down the street and across the river, a building designed by the same firm that designed the 1929 Art Deco beauty that thrusts its great public plaza toward the river in front of the CitiGroup Center.

Check this out . . .
Board of Trade Interior (JWB Photo)
See what I mean?  The unbelievable interior of the Chicago Board of Trade, completed in 1934, clearly gives rise to the Helmut Jahn design of the CitiGroup Center.  And why shouldn’t it?  The building on Madison Street was originally designed to be the addition to the Board of Trade before the powers that be rejected that design and opted for another Helmut Jahn plan.

And that’s my point.  Density of good design is a wonderful thing.  What city wouldn’t want that?  In Chicago, though, we not only have a city jam-packed with great buildings.  But we have something more, I think. We have buildings that don’t mind talking to one another.

Sometimes they even shout to one another from the rooftops . . .

Ceres by John Stoors (JWB Photo)

1 comment:

Jill said...

Thank you for standing up for Chicago!!!!!!!!!