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gebs Jun 26, 2018 8:29 PM

An insult to Chicago's architectural bona fides

Edward Keegan, Crain's Chicago Business

"The SCB scheme looks like a banal government-issue office building of the 1960s has been plunked down on top of the original. And it's not the contrast that's the problem. We've seen new steel and glass buildings on top of elegant masonry bases before—the best example is New York's Hearst Tower by Sir Norman Foster (who designed the Apple Store on the Chicago River).

SCB's designers have chosen to roughly follow the proportions of the Burnham base, matching their exposed metal frame to the spacing of the original building's limestone piers. They also separate the new from old with a story-tall slot of glazing and top the structure with a slightly different window mullion pattern.

None of these design moves are successful."

Good call on the Hearst comparison to a previous forumer.

nomarandlee Jun 26, 2018 8:46 PM

^^^ Good critique. Agree with all of it......

Is there any way the Landmark Commission and Reilly can go ahead and Ok this with it being so universally panned?

Mr Downtown Jun 26, 2018 9:30 PM

^Of course they can. There's no Ministry of Architectural Excellence. I'd assume that Landmarks staff has already nodded approval, or we'd have never been shown this design.

k1052 Jun 26, 2018 10:29 PM

With the sounds Reilly is making this thing is getting built as is. Only thing left to do is hope it turns out better than it looks.

AMWChicago Jun 26, 2018 11:02 PM

This makes me think of Soldier Field renovation. :yuck:

I'm usually all for any type of construction, even if it's hideous. But because this hardly is architecturally significant and doesn't add any real height to the area, please leave the roof alone and just build the "Cheese Grater" next door.

If you just looked at the seven story addition on its own, it literally looks like any of the dozens of filler in West Loop OR one of the Reso going up along Milwaukee. It isn't significant enough to justify tweaking an historical structure.

r18tdi Jun 26, 2018 11:13 PM

I'm willing to bet that the hotel will have a fittingly lame name, like "The Union House"

Clarkkent2420 Jun 26, 2018 11:16 PM


pilsenarch Jun 26, 2018 11:26 PM


Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 8233798)
^Of course they can. There's no Ministry of Architectural Excellence. I'd assume that Landmarks staff has already nodded approval, or we'd have never been shown this design.

I can assure you, based upon intimate experience, if anyone is to blame for this design it's Landmarks staff....

pip Jun 27, 2018 12:01 AM

Wow they bombed on this one. It looks like a rendition of the old Suntimes building plopped on top.

k1052 Jun 27, 2018 12:11 AM


Originally Posted by r18tdi (Post 8233925)
I'm willing to bet that the hotel will have a fittingly lame name, like "The Union House"

"Chicago Illinois Union Station House, an Autograph Collection Hotel Extended Stay Urban Luxury Concept, by Marriott"

Hopefully in some enormous and terrible font illuminated at night on all four sides of the addition. Blocking a bunch of windows too.

LaSalle.St.Station Jun 27, 2018 12:12 AM


Originally Posted by Clarkkent2420 (Post 8233929)
Setting aside the architecture, there are some practical realities at hand:
1. The head house has and will continue to fall further disrepair; Amtrak loses a billion a year and the only thing keeping the bills even close to paid in Chicago is their Metra lease - and Metra doesn’t use or care about the head house.

2. Understanding #1, the only way to get someone else to be responsible for maintaining the asset, which IS essential for Amtrak operations, is to monetize the retail and office areas of the existing building, along with any air rights.

3. Transferring development rights to the adjacent parcel gives Amtrak more money up front but far less whole dollars over time - think of the aggregate cost of an amortizing mortgage vs up front prepayment. Presumably the only way Amtrak can afford to cover the aggregate maintenance is if they book a high-dollar annuity.

4. None of the prior overbuild proposals have been remotely feasible, or else they would have been executed. I remember the LaGrange plan bifurcated Landmrked interior spaces with structural elements.

5. Given all above, and understanding how much ANY redevelopment would impact the existing building, it would seem the choices at hand are (a) Try to match beaux arts and cross your fingers, (b) Soldier Field-level contrast, or (c) “Different but compatible”.

6. Preservationists have vastly different opinions on how to approach this quandary across the world. Many think trying to replicate the original is a bigger insult than a completely different architectural language.


Wasnt the head house the structure that used to exist between the north and south sheds ?

ardecila Jun 27, 2018 12:21 AM

^ No, that was the concourse, not the headhouse.

I'm neither excited nor offended by this design... as Clarkkent pointed out, it's just a "quiet" strategy that tries to be relatively inconspicuous in the sea of West Loop econoboxes. Hopefully the lighting will reflect this too, illuminating the historic masonry parts while letting the new addition sit in relative darkness. Certainly if the architects tried to do something shiny and splashy like Hearst Tower but they didn't nail it, the result would be far more cringe-inducing than this.

There are a lot of interesting ways they could have gone with this, though. If I didn't know it was steel and glass, it almost looks like a subdued Brutalism, like the amazing nuanced buildings that Josep Lluis Sert did at Harvard and BU. If Harry Weese were still around, he would undoubtedly propose something powerful here in a similar vein.

bnk Jun 27, 2018 12:44 AM

Goettsch Partners are getting panned in the comment action in their business site on LinkedIn.

95 % highly negative

I can assure you GP will read those comments and architeture reviews more than anything posted here.

I would not be supprised for them to do some kind of fix

I imagine they already spent a lot into the design

It boggles my mind that they could not imagine the across the board negative feedback by almost everyone save those at GP

GP does great work in general

It’s like they outsourced this to an intern or something

GP actually took down the post on LinkedIn very recently

Blair panned to too,amp.html

Clarkkent2420 Jun 27, 2018 1:08 AM


bnk Jun 27, 2018 1:21 AM


Originally Posted by Clarkkent2420 (Post 8234042)
Uh, except Goettsch isn’t the architect...

Well they must have been involved in some way otherwise they would not have posted it to thier LinkedIn Page and than removed it

Perhaps because they were earlier invoked in the project

Now they apparently want nothing to be associated with it

left of center Jun 27, 2018 1:47 AM

The Goettsch plan was different from this one, and incorporated a two tower design, that is arguably less aesthetically unpleasant than the current SCB plan. Ultimately its not the one that Amtrak selected.

Clarkkent2420 Jun 27, 2018 1:55 AM


left of center Jun 27, 2018 2:00 AM

^ They are the owners of the property, AFAIK

spyguy Jun 27, 2018 2:07 AM

As someone who might be in the minority in actually liking the Soldier Field addition, this is not the same thing IMO. There more talented architects juxtaposed the old with something unambiguously modern, which I think is the way to go in these situations more often than not (see Hearst).

The Union Station addition is really just a dated federal office building in D.C. plopped on top of a landmark. You can justify however you'd like, but this is lazy and cheap (based on O'Donnell's comments) and not worthy of such a prime site.

Clarkkent2420 Jun 27, 2018 2:07 AM


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