Oh My

2,000 feet.
115 stories.
920,000 s.f.
$500 million

The Chicago Tribune reports on the latest supertall tower planned for Chicago, Fordham Tower, designed by everybody's favorite Spanish architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava. According to the article, the tower would be
...utterly different from the boxy forms found elsewhere on the Chicago skyline: A skyscraper with gently curving, concave outer walls attached to a massive reinforced concrete core.

Each floor would rotate a little more than 2 degrees from the one below. The floors would turn 270 degrees around the core as they rise, making the building appear to twist.

A spire above would soar to roughly 2,000 feet...
Calatrava is quoted as saying this super-duper tall height (about 550-feet more than the Sears Tower) reflects his search for ideal proportions and that the goal "is not the highest, or the widest, but a building that wants to be special, a step beyond." Alderman Burton Natarus humorously said, "It's going to put Chicago on the map." Because Millennium Park (among many other architectural triumph's in the city's history) was a big failure, eh Alderman?

The Trib's coverage - evident in its subheader "Trump blasts iffy edifice that would put his in shadow" - finds a way to work in the Donald, who thinks the insanity limit for building tall is 1,360 feet - the height of Trump Tower now under construction. The Sun-Times coverage, on the other hand, takes a different approach, focusing on the femininity of the design that resembles a "tall, stately woman in a flowing, gauzy gown that swirls around her legs."

The proposed tower's location is about two blocks from where I work. If it existed now, I could see it out my window. I know you're happy for me, but no doubt the Streeterville community will have a fair number of people opposed to this looming presence and potential target in their midst.

The site is actually located at a dead end, at the terminus of Water Street which in this one-block stretch now serves two residential developments - one 3-story townhouses, the other two condo towers with townhouses - before it ends just east of Lake Shore Drive. This fact might be acceptable considering the developer is planning to fill the tower with less than 500 hotel and residential units combined, about 250 less than Trump.

The official unveiling of the proposal is Wednesday, so hopefully more - and better - images will follow. At the moment the design is being called a birthday candle and the like (licorice, perhaps?). These sort of analogies I don't find very helpful, though coming from Calatrava I find the design driven more by the 2-degree gimmick than any concerns of beauty and proportion, as he indicated. As well the spire is as dislocated as the one at Freedom Tower. But maybe new renderings will put a better twist on the design, no pun intended.

Update: The New York Times has a feature with a dramatic (yet tiny) nighttime skyline rendering.


  1. Well, it beats the freedom tower :)

    I assume that there are not security concerns in Chicago?

    Because after the design guidelines of the FT, all the buildings have to look like fortresses?

    Good question.

  2. Yes, it definitely is better than the Freedom Tower. And the more I think about Calatrava's design, the more I like it. But the project is quite a long shot - both in terms of anybody wanting to live in the tallest building in the US, as well as the financing, city and neighborhood approval, etc. - so it should be interesting to see how process goes.

    I wonder if Calatrava will address safety concerns in the unveiling tomorrow. Should be some structural reason for the 2-degree twist.

  3. I think that the Calatrava building is...for lack of a better word...cool. The on-line Sun-Times article has images of the structure from different perspectives and it looks quite beautiful in these renderings. Amusingly, the Trump/SOM building is noticeably absent from theses images. I feel a rich developer/starchitect war comin' on.

  4. hi john,
    first post I leave here... check your blog daily, congrats.
    I don't really like Calatrava's work -but think he's a great engineer-, and this project looks to me like a big turning torso Sweden wouldn't allow/need...
    by the way, with the round top, the building looks exactly like an ice candy we had here in Spain in the 80's...!

  5. I regret to say I agree with Ronald Rump that this one's a long shot. Most towers built speculatively are a lot porkier in proportions, for compelling financial reasons. If they actually got the financing and sales to get this one off the ground, it would be an exciting thing for Chicago: a spec development, the form of which is driven by an archtitect's aesthetic judgement rather than a developer's spreadsheet.
    I just don't know how many $6 million condos the market can bear.

  6. What is it about spires these days? Their grace is diminshed when attached to showy ultra-tall skyscrapers.

    I do think that Chicago needs the Calatrava building, though -- it will challenge the rigidity of the Chicago grid system, which seems to have a determining influence on anything that gets built there.

    This building would show that Millennium Park was no coincidence.

    I am skeptical that it can be financed as a speculative project, but remain hopeful. The market seems saturated and the banks very conservative, but perhaps the aura around NYC's Freedom Tower may inspire some Chicago lenders to make a grand civic gesture by one-upping NYC. (At least, I feel that the Calatrava one-ups the bland SOM Freedom Tower, and then some...)


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