Chicago architecture, Chicago tower proposal: … like an inverted pyramid.
Against a backdrop of soon-to-be-finished apartment towers that seem destined to achieve nothing more than competent banality, it was refreshing last week to experience a jolt of broad-shouldered boldness, courtesy of a high-rise plan for a high-profile spot along the Chicago River.
The gutsy proposal, unveiled Wednesday by developer John O’Donnell and architect Jim Goettsch at a public meeting organized by Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd, offers something new in a city renowned as a laboratory of skyscraper innovation: an office tower that tapers inward at the bottom — like an inverted pyramid. It’s the polar opposite of the rugged Chase Tower (formerly the headquarters of the First National Bank of Chicago), whose walls bow outward like a ski slope.
Indeed, the contrast between the skinny base of the proposed high-rise and the office floors that would loom above has led wags to crack jokes about the skyscraper’s perceived lack of structural stability. “Will be easy for Megatron to push over,” one of them tweeted, referring to the action-packed “Transformers” movies.
In reality, similarly designed skyscrapers have proved perfectly stable, and there’s no reason to think that this one, which would be anchored by caissons drilled down to bedrock, would be any different. Seattle’s Rainier Tower, a box set atop a flaring pedestal, has been around since the late 1970s — long enough for locals to dub it “the wine glass.” Comfortingly, the Chicago project would have the same structural engineer, Seattle-based Magnusson Klemencic Associates.