13 November 2015

The Thompson Center

There’s an interesting post about the Thompson Center on the Chicago Architecture Foundation website. Victor and I hated this building for a long time. It seems out of scale and out of keeping with its surroundings, round for the sake of being round; it is accompanied by an extravagantly ugly piece of public art; and the interior, with its enormous atrium showing the galleries of floors above reminds me of a really depressing Hyatt Regency Hotel. 

The building was designed by prominent architect Helmut Jahn, and our opinion of him was quite low for a long time in spite of the way he is often highlighted on the CAF boat tours we take approximately annually with out-of-town guests.

Two things changed our point of view about this building (somewhat). First, some years ago, with a friend visiting from out of town, we had a chance to visit the tippy-top of the Hard Rock Hotel, which is located in the former Carbide and Carbon Building.  They were renovating at that time, and the elevator took all the way up even though it was under construction. We had a chance to look out the windows, from which the views down on the city were just fabulous. And when I saw the Thompson Center from that vantage, I said, “Oh, I know why they chose that design. In a maquette it would have looked awesome!”

Second, we visted Berlin a couple of years later and encountered the thrilling Sony Center, also a Helmut Jahn project. It is hard to find good photos because the complex is so enormous, but when we saw it Victor and I both thought, This is what the Thompson Center was practice for.

Our attitude toward the building thus transformed. Perspective is all.

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