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Old April 4th, 2006, 05:22 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Chicago ... Reaching Higher

Chicago, reaching higher
4 April 2006
Chicago Tribune

The Sears Tower, at 1,450 feet and 110 stories, has held the title of tallest building in Chicago, and the nation, for more than three decades. But if all goes according to plan, it'll be dethroned in as few as four years.

The Chicago City Council has approved the last zoning clearance for a hotel and condominium tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. The Fordham Spire would top out at 2,000 feet and rise 124 stories from its base on the north bank of the Chicago River, just west of Lake Shore Drive.

After a pause provoked by Sept. 11, 2001, Chicago is once again reaching for the sky. The developers figure that if they build it, you will come to live and play in this building that "shoots out of the ground like a rocket," in the words of Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin. City Hall evidently agrees.

The Calatrava tower is no husky, city-of-big-shoulders hulk like the Sears. Instead it's an elegant corkscrew, very 21st Century, twisty thin and futuristic. It's designed to maximize the views for those who can afford sky-high prices, not at making a no-nonsense mercantile statement in the heartland. As such, it reflects the transformation of post-industrial Chicago.

Some will mourn the Sears Tower's descent into also-ran territory. But no No. 1 title lasts forever, and the Sears has had a good run at the top. It has held the No. 1 ranking in Chicago for 32 years. The Sears was also the tallest building in the world for 24 years until it was topped by the two Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1998. (Those towers lost the No. 1 title in 2004 to the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan, which rises 1,670 feet. Taipei, in turn, will be surpassed when the Burj Dubai opens in 2008 in that Gulf emirate. Burj means "tower" in Arabic and, at 2,313 feet, that's precisely what it will do.)

If the Fordham Spire's opening here doesn't come until 2010, as is now planned, the Sears Tower will have broken a local record now held by the Chicago Board of Trade building at the foot of La Salle Street. It was the city's tallest from 1930 until 1965, when it was topped by the new county building, now called the Richard J. Daley Civic Center. (Here's a news flash for everyone who wonders why we're ignoring the Prudential Building, finished in 1955. It topped out five feet shorter than the CBOT and never was the city's tallest, even though that's been conventional wisdom in Chicago for decades.)

The Daley Center held onto the tallest title for just four years until it was knocked off the perch by the John Hancock Center. Likewise, the Hancock reigned for just four years at the top before being replaced by the Standard Oil Building, now known as the Aon Center. That building's grip on the No. 1 ranking lasted just a single year--until the Sears Tower came along.

There have been other contenders for the crown over the years. Donald Trump initially wanted to go for the No. 1 ranking before scaling back his Chicago tower now rising on the north bank of the river west of Michigan Avenue. Over the last two decades, two other super-tall projects were proposed with much fanfare--but never built.

It's no secret why the skyscraper and Chicago's horizon are such a sweet match. Chicago is endowed with a dramatic lakefront but otherwise lacks interesting geography--a topographical blank slate that makes a great backdrop for tall buildings. The economic boom in the two decades following the Great Fire of 1871 set the stage: As more businesses crowded into the city's downtown, eventually there was no place to go but up. Technology delivered two new tools--load-bearing steel and elevators--to provide architects and builders with the means to reach higher. The result, in 1885, was the first cloudbuster, as towering structures were called back then: the nine-story Home Insurance Building. Soon, those cloudbusters were crowding downtown to the consternation of many citizens.

Architect Daniel Burnham, he of make-no-little-plans fame, favored height limits in his famous 1909 Chicago master plan. The City Council passed limits in 1893 and they were on the books, if not always strictly observed, through the 1920s. Then the CBOT building became the most ambitious cloudbuster in town, and the race to be crowned the tallest was on.

The Sears Tower may relinquish that title soon. But someday so will the Fordham Spire.
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Old April 5th, 2006, 01:20 AM   #2
Jules
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It's sad that Sears is gonna lose it's title, but it's a legend. It's legacy will live on, as for Chicago, we just need to keep moving forward.
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Old April 5th, 2006, 02:05 AM   #3
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Old April 7th, 2006, 01:10 PM   #4
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great project...i vote for this...
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Old April 25th, 2006, 09:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STR
amazing..
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Old April 25th, 2006, 10:58 AM   #6
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This render shows us a very realistic cityview
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