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Old December 30th, 2004, 08:50 AM   #1
The Urban Politician
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Architectural criticisms

Well, we have plenty of threads about new construction and developments in Chicago. I thought I would start a thread regarding developments that have already been completed. What do you guys think about them? I think we should focus on the more recently completed developments.

Let's start with 400 N LaSalle. I was looking at that on the web, and I haven't last seen it since it was finished. It's another boring, bland concrete highrise, but I like how it looks at street level. How is the landscaping of the plaza?

Last I checked, it had some ground-level retail for lease. That's always promising.

My big complaint is the parking garage. I've never been a fan of stand-alone garages downtown. The least they could do is have ground-level commercial in the garage, but it doesn't appear to provide that, unless I'm wrong.

Overall assessment: Good for LaSalle, average gain for the skyline (provides bulk), but not anything special. I give it a C
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Old December 30th, 2004, 07:45 PM   #2
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^ Interesting you bring that building up UP. My sister lives on the 46th floor of 345 N. La Salle (The Sterling). Her balcony (breathtaking view) looks north, so we have a very good view of 400 N. La Salle, street traffic, etc. First of all, that building is mostly luxury apartment rentals (corporate housing primarily, I believe). That is actually a good thing, because with all the new condo developments and conversions, there is a need for more rental residences.

The building itself is okay. It is nothing special, but it at least looks "nice" and isn't outright ugly looking like Asbury Plaza or Oakwood some of the other nearby tragedies. That said, it certainly isn't an architectural marvel...but it doesn't make me cringe when I see it like Asbury and Oakwood.

You are right that in tandem, the 345 N. La Salle and 400 N. La Salle provide some very good bulk to the skyline at an area somewhat between the Hancock Center and the Sears Tower. We do need to continue filling those areas in.

As far as the street level parking garages or street level development: It is kind of a tricky area. La Salle is a very wide, busy street. That area is also in the middle of the River North Entertainment district (Sportmart, Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock, etc) so it takes on a little different flavor of development than the Gold Coast might. 400 N. La Salle sucks in terms of steet level interaction...but that may change a bit in the future. It does do a nice job of landscaping the area around it, but it does have a parking garage and other bland structures that line the street.

The sterling is also somewhat guilty of this. Like 400 N. La Salle, the building entrance is set back off the street with a circle drive (yuck) and one side of the building is a parking garage. At least they do have a CVS Pharmacy, Starbucks, and 7-11 at street level. I would also say that the Sterling is by far a more superior building in terms of architecture, but that is just my opinion.

I would grade this out as: 400 N. La Salle: C. 345 N. La Salle: B+

Both buildings do provide height and bulk.
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Old December 30th, 2004, 11:38 PM   #3
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Let's talk about the choice for Gehry to design that portion of Millenium Park.

Although it looks great, I was dissapointed Chicago picked a staple for modern architecture like Gehry. It seems today if a city is trying to convey their modern image they choose Gehry to design a building to do so.

Why not an unknown architect who would create an edgy architectural landmark for a city as amazing as Chicago?

What are your thoughts?
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Old December 31st, 2004, 04:49 AM   #4
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Gehry is friends with the Pritzkers, I am sure that had a lot to do with it.
While I would love to have seen the work of a lesser know architect, I feel it is a treat to have a Gehry project. I especially like that it isn't another building, but a bandshell, which is his only one in the world, along with his only bridge design. In the end, Chicago got two quite uniquely Gehry structures, that look nothing like the Disney hall in LA or the museum in Balbao.
We did get two lesser know artists (in the US that is) with the Crown Fountain (Juame Plensa) and Cloud Gate (Anish Kapoor). Both of which are wonderful additions to our collection of public art.
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Old December 31st, 2004, 05:02 AM   #5
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Speaking of the bandshell, what kind of performances do they hold there? Ballets, operas, concerts...?
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Old December 31st, 2004, 05:35 AM   #6
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The Grant Park Symphony performs free concerts most weekends throughout the summer. They also us it for other events as well.
I am not an enormous fan of classical music, but I must admit, there is nothing quite like a picnic under the stars with the symphony playing, candles burning, and a bottle of wine (and of course a special someone or group of friends). The sound quality is amazing, they have the most technologically advanced outdoor sound system in the world (at the moment of course).
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Old December 31st, 2004, 07:26 AM   #7
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^Is the bandshell used in the fall/winter as well?

Here's another building to critique. What do you guys think about the Millennium Centre?

Seems bland, just like the others. At least they have ground-level retail, unless I'm wrong.

I'll give it a C as well. If they have ground-level retail, I'll give it a C+
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Old December 31st, 2004, 09:02 AM   #8
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"Gehry is friends with the Pritzkers, I am sure that had a lot to do with it. "

I've read articles about it that said the Pritzkers demanded Gehry be the architect if they were going to fund it.
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Old December 31st, 2004, 06:20 PM   #9
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Tup, I have yet to see the bandshell in use during winter. They used it as late as the end of October (I don't know what specifically, but I saw a crowd in the seats and the stage in use on a weekend late in October).
The reality of Chicago winters limits outdoor concerts mostly to the months of May through September. Otherwise, it's just too damn cold to have folks sitting outdoors. (But of course we don't live here for the weather, we live here in spite of the weather.)
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Old December 31st, 2004, 10:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Urban Politician
^Is the bandshell used in the fall/winter as well?

Here's another building to critique. What do you guys think about the Millennium Centre?

Seems bland, just like the others. At least they have ground-level retail, unless I'm wrong.

I'll give it a C as well. If they have ground-level retail, I'll give it a C+
Millennium Centre has some style to it, and it does certainly pierce the skyline. On the south end of it, a massive parking garage borders Ohio St. But they have put in a bank of america, a subway, and a pretty cool new restaurant called Masck, so there is some good ground level development.

Architecturally speaking, I wouldn't say its the best building ever, but it certainly isn't the worst.
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Old January 1st, 2005, 03:53 PM   #11
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Id give the millennium centre a C+. Its a decent postmodern building, but it isnt that special.


Ill bring up grand plaza and give it an D, everything about it is bad. Its like four designs thrown onto one buidling with an extremly ugly facade. its almost like that "tweezer tower" in san fran (cant remember the name, something like one california center).
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Old January 2nd, 2005, 08:05 AM   #12
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Grand Plaza is really pretty shitty. I also give it a D.

I like The Pinnacle. Saw it in my trip today. It has a nice looking base, I'll actually give that place a B

What do you guys think about the renovation of Montgomery Ward's Headquarters building?
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Old January 2nd, 2005, 05:30 PM   #13
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The rennovation looks just okay. What I don't like are the annoying ads for the luxury condo's they are selling that are put up along the street (I take the Chicago bus to the 'el' and pass it on my way to work almost every day). I'm glad to see it rennovated, but it looks sort of odd, it is the massive tower with not much immediately surrounding it, but I'm sure that will not be the case much longer.
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Old January 2nd, 2005, 05:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Urban Politician
What do you guys think about the renovation of Montgomery Ward's Headquarters building?
I was by the front of the place last week on Chicago Ave. They are constructing a spiral driveway for the parking on the lower floors. I like the new windows, they have a bluish cast. From a distance you can see where they cut a giant hole in the roof, for a sundeck for the residents on the top floor. Overall, I like what they are doing. The building does have that tower in a park feel, which I don't like, but then again that is pretty much what they inherited when the devlopers bought the place. The neighborhood around it still has a way's to go as far as providing services. There are lots of new housing units in the area, but not a lot of resturants and shops.
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