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Lake Shore plan has superstar air
Developer bringing in Spanish architect

By Blair Kamin and Thomas Corfman
Tribune staff reporters
Published May 18, 2005

Already home to projects by such star architects as Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas and Helmut Jahn, Chicago may be about to add another international superstar to its list: Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava.

Calatrava, known for his lyrical, structurally expressive buildings and bridges, is expected to unveil a residential high-rise design for a prominent North Lake Shore Drive site on Tuesday, people close to the project said.

The developer for the project, these sources confirmed Tuesday, is the Fordham Co. Its portfolio includes Near North Side luxury high-rises such as the Fordham and the Pinnacle, as well as the Gold Coast midrise known as 65 E. Goethe. Calatrava's modern forms would mark a strong departure from these traditional buildings.

Fordham is buying two sites, located on the west side of the drive along the north bank of the Chicago River, sources said.

Current zoning would allow for two towers: a 540-foot high-rise on the slip and a 350-foot structure along the river.

It is not known whether Calatrava is being hired to design one or both of the proposed towers.

A Fordham spokesman declined to release drawings of the project or provide details.

The hiring of Calatrava for the high-profile residential project would mark a key shift in the current building boom, with a local developer bringing in an outside "starchitect" for a major residential project.

Typically, such projects have been designed by Chicago firms. The 92-story Trump International Hotel & Tower, for example, is by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago.

Calatrava's expansion of the Milwaukee Art Museum, which opened in 2001 and features a sunshade that opens like the wings of a bird, has drawn thousands of visitors from Chicago and its suburbs. The design, Calatrava's first American building, anticipates the architect's planned $2 billion World Trade Center transportation hub. Its above-ground portion will resemble a great bird that has alighted on a plaza.

Other recent Calatrava projects include the roof of the Olympic stadium in Athens and the Olympic velodrome.

Last year Calatrava was named by the American Institute of Architects as the winner of its Gold Medal, the institute's highest individual honor. The Gold Medal recognizes an individual whose body of work has had an enduring impact on the theory and practice of architecture. Previous recipients include Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn.

To make Calatrava's Chicago project possible, Fordham would buy the sites from a joint venture of luxury condominium developer LR Development Co. and Virginia investment firm JER Partners.

About a year ago the venture bought the two sites and another one nearby, paying $37 million. Terms of the deal with Fordham could not be determined, but the joint venture was asking $65 million for the sites Fordham would buy, sources said.

Thomas Weeks, LR's president, declined to comment, except to say that LR and JER are in active development on another site, located just west of Lake Shore Drive between Grand Avenue and Illinois Street.

Christopher Carley, Fordham's chairman, and Calatrava, who has offices in Zurich and New York City, could not be reached for comment.

The Chicago project would not be Calatrava's first major American high-rise commission. Last year he made public a design for a Lower Manhattan residential tower, near the Brooklyn Bridge and the South Street Seaport, that would consist of stacked "glass cubes" located on either side of a concrete core. The project, known as 80 South Street, won raves from architecture critics and public officials. It has yet to begin construction.

Calatrava is no stranger to Chicago. Several years ago he designed two pedestrian bridges that would have spanned Lake Shore Drive, connecting Buckingham Fountain and the lakefront. But city officials shelved the design, though they never explained why.

Although Calatrava later met with Mayor Richard Daley, he chose not to enter the city's design competition, held last year, for five pedestrian bridges along the lakefront.

In recent years Chicago has added several high-profile projects by distinguished international architects.

Gehry designed the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, which opened last year. In 2003 the Illinois Institute of Technology opened a campus center by Dutch architect Koolhaas and a dorm by Jahn, who is based in Chicago.

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540ft and 350ft two-towers? The numbers are okay. But the vacant sites are not just for infills but highly visible which require nothing less than "starchitects."

Hope the renderings are amazing enough to surpass sales goal in one day like 1MP.
 

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In addition, I hope the rendering will be as mindblowing as 80 south street in NYC. That should set a standard for architects and developers to follow.
 

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I have absolutely no concerns about the project being perfect in every way. After all, this is Santiago Calatrava we're talking about. I just hope there's a possibility for them to modify the zoning to allow for increased height. Calatrava's creative genius shouldn't be limited - 80 South St. wouldn't be half the project it is if it weren't so damn tall.
 

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Awesome. I can't wait to see some renderings. BVictor, are you up to it? lol
 

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Chi_Coruscant said:
In addition, I hope the rendering will be as mindblowing as 80 south street in NYC. That should set a standard for architects and developers to follow.
You high praise sent me to images of 80 South Street. It's daringly different, especially in its articulated engineering, I'll grant; but it looks like a camshaft standing on its end. After the first impression began to wear off, it struck me as somewhat comical IMP. Still, his is a large creative spirit, and I look forward to his proposed building for a city famed for its architectural heritage. Hopefully he will add a striking resonance or resolved dissonance to it.
 

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This is freaking awesome news!!! I was just talking to Sharptent/Steely Dan the other day about how I wished something like 80 S ST was going up around 600 N. Mich. and now this news at an even more prominent site. I think it is great that Chicago is getting a "starchitect" for at least a couple of buildings in this current boom. However, I am also pround that there have been some very good to excellent designs by local architects (e.g., Skybridge, TTC, Waterview, 340, 1MP...). Most cities (e.g., Dubai, HK, and many in the US) have to import "starchitects" sometimes from Chicago (e.g., Jahn, Adrain Smith) to get good designs. Chicago tends to grow and depend on its own more than most cities. But despit all that this is great news that one of my favorite architects will design in Chicago and add variety and challange to the homegrown talent. This rewally ups the anty for developers to hire great architects and promote great, cutting edge designs.
 

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I'm fearful that the developers just want a pretty close copy of 80 south street in Manhattan. It will be a complete shame if that happens. Chicago will then only be a follower and not a trend setter, like it has been sometimes in the past (i.e. Gehry Bandshell).
 

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^The band shell is a completely different animal from Ghery. Yes it uses his same design language, but it is saying something completely different.
 

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ThirdCoast - all of Gehry's recent work (save for, perhaps, the Stata Center at MIT) has that same look to it. That certainly doesn't make Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago followers of Bilbao. I can also assure you that no matter how much the developers beg him to do so (not that I am suggesting they would), Calatrava would never simply give us a hacked up version of 80 South Street. It's simply against an architect's code to build the same building more than once.
 

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Well, Mies' buildings have the same subtle differences that Frank Gehry's do. Sure, they're all clad the same and could even be mistaken for one another by the casual observer, but, each is unique in its own way.
 

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I feel that Chicago should be breeding and making use of its own inherent starchitects instead of trying to patronize internationally known ones. Sure it's nice, but why should we go to such effort to lure them in?
 

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Because they keep us on the tip of everyone's tongues, architecturally speaking. There needs to be a continued interest in Chicago architecture for our local starchitects to have anything to even work on, and if bringing in a few heavy-hitters to make sure that we aren't forgotten about when the boys in NY are rounding up development-dollars, then so be it.
 
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