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Ask Chicagoist: Feminist Icon or Random Building?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on May 16, 2007 1:00PM

Hey Chicagoist:

I have heard that the Smurfit-Stone Building (aka the "Diamond" building) was built to be a feminist icon (read: vagina) in the sea of monolith phalli known as the Chicago Skyline....

2007_05_asksmurfit.jpgCan you debunk this myth?



Hi Bobby,

Unfortunately, yes, we're going to have to chalk this one up to urban legend. As much as we really can't help ourselves in seeing phallic or yonic shapes and images in pretty much everything — architecture, nature, electronics, sex toys — this one's purely a happy (albeit quite recognizable) coincidence.

Chicagoist thinks the fun thing about debunking myths is that it's not like there's ever a written statement from the universe (or architect) listing all things that are not true. Oh wait — in this situation there kind of is. Local art and culture publication 606 Magazine wrote an article on the Smurfit-Stone Building (as seen in Adventures in Babysitting) back in 2004. They talked to an architect at A. Epstein & Sons, the firm that designed the building, and he was rather quick to debunk the myth, saying they "never had that thought in mind. It was never their intention. I assure you, absolutely not."

Perhaps he's not a mind-reader, but the case is that the architect at the firm who worked on the building was named Sheldon Schlegman, probably not the first candidate for subversively placing feminist icons in the midst of one of the world's most recognizable skylines. Some might even say "helping it become" one of the world's most recognizable skylines.

Sheldon, incidentally, seems to have retired to Atlanta, becoming active in the city's tree conservation efforts, and butting heads with actor Tyler Perry over tree removal and oversized columns (an affront to his architectural sensibilities, perhaps?). We imagine it beats fielding questions about his vagina-intentions back in 1983.

But back on subject — it's not really a far-fetched notion. The famed diamond shape is split down the middle, and there's a gap at the top. Either way, we like how the outline looks all lit-up at night. And we aren't going to complain too much if people continue to think of it as the Vagina Building — it's a sentiment we can get behind. So to speak.

Image via RcktManIL.

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