james r. thompson center
The James R. Thompson Center was designed by Helmut Jahn and completed in 1984. The building’s dizzying circular atrium (described by Landmarks Illinois as “a place some people love to hate”) is simultaneously an icon of the Postmodernist architectural movement and a visible reminder of the effects of deferred maintenance. The building was recently featured in Starship Chicago, a documentary short by Berlin-based filmmaker Nathan Eddy.
Since 2015, the State of Illinois has been exploring options for selling the building, including as a redevelopment site in Chicago’s bid for the Amazon second headquarters. Any potential sale is complicated by the existing Clark/Lake CTA station, located beneath and next to the Thompson Center, although recent proposals have included a supertall tower on the site to offset costs of station renovations. While state leaders continue to call for its sale and demolition, preservationists including Docomomo Chicago and Landmarks Illinois support the adaptive reuse of this Postmodernist gem.
The Aon Center
The Aon Center was built between 1970 and 1974. Originally known as the Standard Oil Building, this 83-story skyscraper was designed by Edward Durrell Stone in partnership with Chicago-based Perkins and Will. The building’s distinctive vertical ribs are clad in white granite and embody the New Formalism architectural style that Stone became known for. The Aon Center is also notable for its “Sounding Sculpture”, a kinetic artwork by Modernist sculptor and designer Harry Bertoia.
As reported in Crain’s and Curbed, the owners of the Aon Center announced plans for a new observatory. While the top floors offer impressive views over Millennium Park, the observatory could potentially require the construction of several new elevator shafts to accommodate visitors. Although no further plans have been announced since late 2015, the project remains high on Docomomo Chicago’s watchlist for any potential changes to the Aon Center’s exterior or plaza.
Top banner: McCormick Place Lakeside Center, Gene Summers and Helmut Jahn, C.F. Murphy Associates, 1968-1971