Michigan Avenue Streetwall

Blair Kamin, in a couple articles, takes a stab at the recently-landmarked Michigan Avenue streetwall, from Randolph Avenue south to Roosevelt.

In an article published October 8, Kamin covers the City of Chicago's approval of Krueck + Sexton's design for the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. The 10-story building would feature a distinctive folding glass wall overlooking Grant Park that would stand out from its mainly heavy, masonry neighbors. While the approval process is far from complete, Spertus' new home is planned for construction to start next May with completion in 2007. I'm hoping all goes well for the Institute and the architects, since their design seems fresh and appropriate for its highly visible location.

Missing Image - spertus.jpg

Kamin continues his focus on Michigan Avenue, in a longer piece published today on the future of the streetwall. With a helpful graphic, Kamin highlights the new developments that will be fitting into the existing streetwall, spanning the length of the landmark zone.

Starting at the southern end (L-R): on Roosevelt will be the Columbian condominium tower, 1000 South Michigan, another residential tower, is a couple blocks north, followed by the Spertus on the 600 South block, and finally the Heritage at Millennium Park already under construction and towering over the neighboring Cultural Center.

Missing Image - Streetwall.jpg

Kamin's order of preference (favorite to least favorite) seems to be Spertus, Heritage, 1000 South, Columbian, illustrating how the planning decisions can both positively and negatively impact design. Positively in the case of the Spertus and its folded glass wall, and negatively in the case of 1000 South, Kamin arguing that the building would have a more elegant profile with additional floors over the Landmark Commission's limitations.

One argument Kamin makes, that I partly agree with, is that the streetwall needs to be thought of beyond purely Michigan Avenue. The Heritage is an ideal example, as it sits on Wabash (one block west) but clearly impacts the view from Grant Park. But I disagree with his assertion that the Golden Gate-red CNA is "a blockhead that ruins the class portrait." While the building itself isn't anything special, the red exterior is a great exclamation point, particularly in the postcard view from the Adler Planetarium, where it sits between the Sears Tower and the AON Tower. CNA is an example of a "background building" coming to the fore and livening up the skyline of the city, something designers and City Hall should think about.