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Thompson Center Architect Floats Bold Skyscraper Proposal Amid Demolition Threats

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jan 20, 2017 9:29PM


Rendering of proposal by Helmut Jahn / via Crain's
A day after Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republican legislators once again floated plans to sell and demolish the Thompson Center, then replace it with a supertall skyscraper, the architect who designed the ugly-beautiful, mass-of-glass icon is proposing an alternative. Keep the building primarily as is—and also add a supertall tower.

Crain's reports that architect Helmut Jahn has suggested a huge, 110-story addendum structure in response to what he called Republicans’ “monstrosity” proposal, a 1,700-foot tower designed by Adrian Smith (Burj Khalifa, Chicago's Trump Tower) that, if constructed, would be Chicago’s largest building. (Republican lawmakers are also presenting less outsize concepts to replace the divisive, postmodern monument, including 40- through 70-story mixed-use structures, Crain's reports.)

We’re not convinced either skyscraper concept has much chance of realization, but the whole debate is a reminder that Thompson Center’s days may ultimately be numbered—which would be a shame. Yes, it regularly makes any list of Chicago’s (even the nation’s) ugliest buildings, and its cavernous, underused design is a strain on utilities for an eternally cash-strapped state. But it’s our ugly oddity, and there’s not much else like it—and we tend to make these demolition decisions with far too little deliberation.

So even if Jahn’s proposal is just a counter-pipedream pipedream, we’ll take stays of execution for the Thompson Center any way they come.

Rendering of proposal by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill