Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Design Tuesday - Marina City

My wife and I are currently on vacation in Chicago visiting family.  I grew up on the South Side, between the neighborhoods of Mt. Greenwood (home of Capone's grave, hereditary Irish alcoholism, and many police, firemen and teachers - my mother and several other family members included in that last group) and Beverly (Wood St. Mansions, Kanye West, and Morgan Park High - the first school in the country to be equipped with metal detectors...), but we like to divide our time between there, downtown and the North Side.  When we're not staying with my brother and his lovely and hilarious wife Angie, we like to splurge a bit and stay at some really nice hotels.  This is the view out of our room on the 10th floor of the Hotel Sax:




Bertrand Goldberg's masterpiece, Marina City.  We're approximately at eye level with the top of the spiral parking structure and the bottom residential floor, with the Chicago River and Lower Wacker clearly visible between the towers.  Every time a yacht passes by my wife thinks it's R. Kelly out for some debaucherous cruise.

I've loved these buildings since I was old enough to notice them.  They were one of a handful of downtown icons instrumental in my development as a life-long architecture and design geek, and remain a strong source of civic pride.  Staying in this beautiful hotel, once Marina City's original office structure, looking out of the narrow, vertical floor-to ceiling windows between naked structural concrete pillars, knowing this was all penned by Goldberg himself is almost overwhelming.


our hotel is the gray mid-rise building visible to the right of the towers

Finished in 1964, the original site was intended to be a self-contained city-within-a-city, built with its own drug store, supermarket, post office, restaurants, bowling alley, skating rink, movie theater, hospital and marina.  The marina, bowling alley and restaurants remain, while the former theater building is now the House of Blues.  The towers are largely credited with reversing urban residential decline in Chicago, and in large cities around the world afterwards, where similar (but never quite as spectacular) high-rise residences were built, inspired by Chicago's success with the concept.  The towers were the first buildings to employ tower cranes in their construction, and upon completion were both the tallest residential and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world.

When I'm done with this post we'll be ordering in some food (god I miss the food here!), watching exit polls, and hopefully popping a bottle of champagne prior to walking over to Grant Park and celebrating with a few hundred thousand people, waiting for Obama's acceptance speech.

I'll end with a photo of the towers from the album cover of one of my all-time favorite records, from one of my all-time favorite bands - Chicago's own Wilco.  If you've never heard it, give it a listen - it's magic from beginning to end.



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