If the Tribune's coverage is any indication, Chicago has Spire frenzy, as Santiago Calatrava unveiled the "final" design of the 2000' tower on Monday. While my schedule doesn't permit a long post on the design, at first glance Calatrava has made improvements on the second scheme by shaping the tower's profile as it rises, giving it more of a curved -- rather than straight -- taper. The plan also includes improvements to the long-neglected DuSable Park east of Lake Shore Drive and a pedestrian bridge across LSD.

See the evolution (pardon the quality of the latest; it's a still from a video, the only source available with a similar view to the others):

July 2005 > > January 2007 > > March 2007


  1. Although I am not a member of SOAR, I do live one block west of the proposed grossly over-scaled edifice to Calatrava's already (self)-inflated ego. So, I can speak to how this building poses many problems to an already poorly conceived and over-developed neighborhood. First, let me say I love Calatrava’s Milwaukee museum and more than one of his bridges in Europe (especially the Alamillo bridge in Seville).

    With that said, it is clear Rober Salm, Santiago Calatrava, and Garrett Kelleher do not live in the Streeterville neighborhood, particularly on its southern end or “River East” section. If they did, they could understand how this building will have a very negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood and its inhabitants---it IS a neighborhood and not the loop business district, after all. I always thought good/ great architecture was to be a benefit to its surroundings and not a detriment, am I wrong about that?

    I have rented in the Streeterville/ River East area for the past five years. With every year that has passed, many new apartment and condo high-rises have been built. Very few could be considered “good architecture.” All can be directly linked to the ever increasing density of traffic and tourists. On the weekends, my neighborhood is over-run with cars, trucks, tourists, tourist buses, and people from all over the city and suburbs. Just because my neighborhood is near Navy Pier does not mean it should be a part of Navy Pier, which is one of the reasons why I HATE the proposed Chicago Spire. How would you like to pay high rent and be subjected to Disneyland-like throngs of people in your neighborhood every weekend (and every day and night in the summer)?

    I pay very high rent to live in Streeterville, but Friday through Sunday I dread the influx of loud and always littering people. It is so bad, I hate to walk out of my building, at times. It is like Michigan Ave. at Christmas... you cannot even walk down the street without encountering walls of people. It was once a quite and safe neighborhood, but no longer. The as-yet unfinished Lakeshore East development (can the buildings over there get any uglier?) will also contribute to this Disneyland-run-amuck development.

    And now Calatrava and Kelleher want to turn the River Walk into a busy promenade leading to their over-scaled/ grossly large Spire and an as-yet-to-be built-or designed DuSable Park. Please, Streeterville is a neighborhood not a Six Flags amusement park! With the Chicago Spire in place, traffic--- both pedestrian and vehicular--- are destined to become worse. Add the Lakeshore East traffic (which must cross the river to grocery shop, etc.) and you have a logistics and environmental nightmare. For example, if you have 1300 units in one building and multiply each unit with 2 cars (at a minimum), where are 2600 cars going to park? Not to mention the neighborhood is already too congested with traffic now!!!

    Obviously, Kelleher’s “traffic expert” did not conduct his study during a normal weekend or during peak summer days. The traffic study should happen sometime between Memorial Day and Labor Day [when Streeterville barely belongs to its residents and is overwhelmed with tourists and city/suburban revelers, and vomiting drunks (vomit piles are a common sight on the sidewalks thanks to Dick’s Last Resort)]. One more thing… all the trees Calatrava proposes for DuSable Park (included in all his renderings) suggest they will “hide” Lakeshore Drive, and that will allegedly be placed around his big fat building, are presently NOT there! How many decades will it take for the trees they “promise” to plant grow to “hide” Lakeshore Drive and “augment” the neighborhood? I hope this building NEVER gets built on the WAY TOO SMALL North Water Street plat of land. PUT IT SOMEWHERE ELSE… like in the loop where it belongs and not in my neighborhood!

  2. Streeterville and River East are very close to the loop and can certainly be consdiered part of downtown chicago. This area should be more dense and the spire will only help. It is the best looking tower to be proposed in Chicago in a long time and hopefully will get done. So far things are looking good, except for the financing. I am not sure how well these units will sell right now, but if they can do that the rest should fall into place. This is not an area that should remain 3 flats and small homes. This is downtown in a major city. What we are missing in Chicago is the density downtown that you find in New York. Hopefully the city leaders are not foolish enough to listen to a few homeowners that think their parking spot and house are more important than the city as a whole. If you live in that area there is no reason for a car anyway, so the traffic should not bother you. Get a bike and an el pass and enjoy the city.

  3. Please, move somewhere else then, perhaps the suburbs.

    This area should, and will, become a high density zone.

    I remember only a few years ago how embarrasingly dull it was, full of surface parking lots.

    While I agree that most of the architecture leaves much to be desired, there is no reason to stop constructing large buildings in a growing area because a few want to believe that they deserve a quaint retreat in the city since they pay top dollar rents. If you don't like the parking situation (which I don't either), you and your neighbors should ask the city to increase public transportation in the area and/or lower parking requirement, not stop developers from constructing new buildings.

  4. Why the corkscrew?
    Is that for less windpressure?

  5. 1. I am NOT against development in Streeterville/ River East. BUT, I am against poorly planned and poorly designed architecture. “Good" architecture should compliment and benefit its surroundings not overpower them, as the Chicago Spire does.

    Agreed, Streeterville/ River East was once barren with too many flat parking lots. However, the latest building craze has now plunked down too many ugly pre-cast concrete high-rises that add little to the neighborhood or our city’s skyline.

    2. Being very close to the loop does not mean you cannot also develop a truly attractive, user-friendly, “green” neighborhood. That Streeterville/ River East is near downtown does not mean it should have to look exactly like the business district. With that logic, unattractive high-rise/ skyscraper sprawl should advance unimpeded all the way to Evanston. I suppose developing Grant Park along the lake--- also “very close to the loop and can certainly be considered part of downtown Chicago,” as “anonymous” put it---should be land rich for more high-rise density. Building for building sake is BAD URBAN PLANNING, not to mention there is no guarantee the architecture will be great or even just good.

    3. To mimic New York's high-density is folly. Personally, I think New York's skyline is definitely NOT as attractive as Chicago's. Plus, the more density there is, the more it adversely impacts its immediate environment. As, a result, NYC is filthy and its development is too crowed. Why do you advocate a similar demise for Chicago?
    Like many Chicagoans, I choose to live in Chicago because it is clearly not New York City.

    4. Have you ever walked around Streeterville / River East, particularly on the weekends? "3 flats and small homes" are definitely in the minority! The neighborhood is almost entirely comprised of high-rises. Where are you people from?

    I am not against high-rises in my “backyard.” But, I should not have to move simply to enjoy my neighborhood as others in our city enjoy theirs--- without a canyon of sun-blocking high-rises, loud and littering tourists/ visitors, and traffic that is not pedestrian-friendly.

    Wedging-in a colossally over-scaled building such as the Chicago Spire onto a 2.2 acre lot is BAD ARCHITECTURE and BAD URBAN PLANNING. If Calatrava’s renderings were forced to accurately project exactly how his Spire building (which has been neutered in its latest form; it’s now spire-less), AND if he were then to add to these renderings exactly what is already built around his very small plot of land, it would become more evident just how misconceived this project is vis-à-vis the other structures in the neighborhood.

    Build a high-rise, just not one that is 2000 feet tall. The Chicago Spire at 2000 ft. is just WRONG FOR A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD. Its proposed height now is merely a reflection of its architect and developer’s collective narcissism.

    Think about it … the Chicago Spire will be taller than the Sears Tower! Try to imagine a building taller than the Sears tower only one block from your home (and add Navy Pier and all the tourist traffic that comes with it, too).

    I am not against new and elegantly designed high-rises in my neighborhood. BUT, I do not want a building that is so out-of-scale for the neighborhood that it only adds more pedestrian and vehicular traffic than anything else.

    5. By the way, I am a RENTER (of a $1100 studio). Even if I did own, I should not be criticized because I live in Streeterville/ River East.

    Since I do live one block away from this proposed monstrosity, I think I have a better sense of its direct impact on the neighborhood. SORRY, but if you do not live in Streetville/ River East then you cannot speak from a perspective on how it will impact your neighborhood and how you enjoy your neighborhood.

    6. I am also very "green." I CHOOSE not to own a car. And, yes, I also own a bike and ride the L regularly. I also walk to work--- and why I pay high-rent for one room--- because it is important to me to not own a car and add to the pollution in our city. I also like being near the running path, for obvious reasons.

    Likewise, I like to just walk in my neighborhood on the weekends, which poses a problem more and more because the ever increasing traffic is definitely NOT pedestrian- friendly. You would know this if you lived in the neighborhood. Frankly, I have nearly been hit in the cross-walk far more times than I want to count.

    7. "Spy" suggested more public transportation... SORRY, buses and trolleys are NOT the answer because they, too, are NOT pedestrian-friendly, not to mention they already clog up the streets as it is, and they also unlawfully “park” along the street along McClurg and New Streets, idling fumes while waiting for the tourists to come back from Navy Pier or Dick’s Last Resort. This neighborhood and these streets were not designed to be bus and trolley resting areas. It will just get worse IF the Chicago Spire gets built.

    More parking garages are also NOT pedestrian-friendly. Just walking down the sidewalk is dangerous when cars zoom out of the garages across the sidewalks, as if they are in a suburban parking lot (and not in a NEIGHBORHOOD). Again, I have also been nearly run-over this way.

    At present, there is very little green space, trees and general landscaping--- other than Water Tower Park or the lakefront--- in Streeterville/ River East. Putting a high-rise building on every available block is just more ugly concrete, traffic, and too many people. As Mies suggested, “less is more.” Streetville/ River East needs a reprieve of all the unbridled development. I am not saying, “no more development,” but I would ask the City to rethink it urban development plans for this areas (an not allow developers to rape our neighborhoods and skyline). Once lost, Chicago will never get back its unique skyline and lakefront parks and neighborhoods --- which are two attributes, among many, that make our city so much better than NYC.

    Streeterville/ River East is a NEIGHBORHOOD, it is NOT THE LOOP.

    The Chicago Spire is literally misplaced and should be a lot farther South (if it can ever get financed and built).

  6. Streeterville is littered with ecologically unfriendly buildings that turn their back on the street. Condos piled onto parking podiums. People seem perfectly happy to live in these buildings that turn their back on the street. It is the densest residential neighborhood in the city. Actually it's mixed use, not residential. Just because some ill-conceived three-story townhomes were built next door, should not impede an important project like this. There has been a master plan for this area for almost two decades now and those townhomes were the ones that varied from the plan. Yes it is tall, but has less floor area than the John Hancock.


  7. Do you think the people back in the 60's who actually conceived the "master plan" for this area ever considered a building 2000 ft tall? And would thee have approved of such a building taller than Sears for Streeterville? As for the townhouses that seem out of place, maybe you have a point. Although, evidently they received city approval to be built. So, maybe they don't deviate from whatever "master plan" was once conceived. Besides, why do you believe urban planning should be conducted today by 1960's or "1980's standards? Haven't architects and urban planners learned from their mistakes from the past?

  8. A few quick comments:
    1. I am confident whether or not they do build the building--it will be completely uneventful.
    2. If anyone thinks that Streeterville is a nice place they are crazy. The only impression that Streeterville leaves is somehow you are constantly under a viaduct.
    3. The only traffic that scares me in Streeterville is the parade of $3000 mountain bikes leaving the Fox and Obel parking lot.
    4. Frankly Dear, I don't give a damn.
    5. Opposing skyscrapers just makes you sound old and gross--for serious, like move to Rhode Island or something.

  9. tall or small, architectural success depends upon context. what's wrong with a tall building intrinsically? just that is aesthetically out-of-place? so what? financially, the elevator inverted the relationship of height and cost - making top floors expensive rather than the cheapest thing you could buy. welcome to technology. now, would you rather have a stubby piece of starchitecture? frankly, i think that would sux a lot worse

  10. It's very important to talk about how the building affects its context -- and very important for SOAR and other groups or individuals to become part of the process, be they for or against the Spire -- but it should be noted that the context of the building is international.

    We have a Dublin-based developer securing financing from an Irish bank, both with faith in "demand from international buyers." Oh, and there's a Spanish architect who's known internationally designing the thing, too. Chicagoans will not be filling this building. People who will live there (if it ever gets built) will not be living there year round, much less the majority of the year. They are people that could probably care less about its impact on street life, traffic, or anything else that locals care about.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say this international focus (esp. the demand side) isn't completely the product of an ambitious developer (and another one before him) but mainly the Mayor, who seems to be striving for a legacy that makes Chicago a global city. Millennium Park does that. The Olympics would do that. The Spire would be a BIG part of that. But don't think it would end there; the Spire would be just one dev't with an international focus. And that's one reason why residents need to be a large part of the process, to ground the decision-making in local concerns, not just international ones.

  11. Either stop complaining with pathetic little quips about increased traffic (all "downtown" neighborhoods have bad traffic) or just move!

  12. I found Christopher Alexander's "The Nature of Order" on your site, but am surprised to not find a link to www.pattern language.com

  13. Thanks, John, you are a voice of reason. Your point regarding “context” was much appreciated.

    For me, architecture grows out of our need for shelter and a more-or-less harmonious relation to our surroundings. Architecture is a response to the human problem of dwelling and/ or working safely and happily in our environment.

    In my humble opinion, good architecture is not about creating disembodied, context-free,
    timeless, aesthetic-only experiences, of the sort that Kelleher and Mayor Daley,
    et al. seems to cherish.

    Instead, good architecture is--- and always should be--- about enhancing the quality of situations that include, not just people, but also the entire more-than-human world, i.e., its surrounding environment.

    Architecture should help us change our relation to our environment FOR THE BETTER. At its core, I think architecture has a mission to make the world a better place to live.

    Architecture like Calatrava’s/ Kelleher’s now neutered spire-less Chicago “Spire” should not increase, or reinforce human misery, but alleviate it.

    Sadly, the now neutered and spire-less Chicago “Spire” seems only to have as its objective a narcissistic sense of our world… a “look at me” posture. In this representational function-only architecture, it does nothing more than merely express some of its architect’s and developer’s dysfunctional, inharmonious, narcissistic, and highly problematic interpretations of what good architecture should achieve.

    In my view, mere reflection and representation of prevailing “reality”— i.e., who and what is most popular at the moment--- is not a sufficient mission of architecture. Should the now neutered spire-less Chicago “Spire” be built, its context-free, unbalance, out-of-scale height and Disneyland-attraction aesthetics will be with us for generations to come.

    For me, I am not just “complaining with pathetic little quips about increased traffic,” because I think architecture at its best goes beyond that level of the mere expression of present “reality” and experience to creatively transform the conditions of our human habitation and interaction. Whether you agree or like it, this is architecture’s moral imperative--- to make the world a better place in which to live.

    I think Calatrava’s concept could do this, just not at 2000 ft on this particular small plot of land.

    And for the record, and one more time, I am NOT against high-rises or skyscrapers, increased development or modern architecture, but I am against BAD ARCHITECTURE. In my view, the now neutered spireless Chicago “Spire” --- on this specific small plot of land--- is BAD ARCHTECTURE.

    One more thing… building “the tallest” buildings like the Burj Dubai or Petronas Twin Towers may draw attention to themselves and their respective cities and/ or countries, but that does not make them examples of good architecture.


Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam.