Bank One Plaza
21 S. Clark St.

Bank One Plaza


2003 NB

In just about any other major American city, this building would be heralded for its innovative design and embraced as a signature of the skyline. But standing in the heart of Chicago (literally: Bank One's back door is a block from State and Madison, which lies zero-zero on the city's address grid), surrounded by historical beauties and recent experiments, Bank One seems far too ordinary to have such a prominent place in the birthplace of the skyscraper (it's Chicago's ninth tallest building, the tallest within the actual loop of elevated train tracks). Its color is too drab, its structure too blocky, its windows too suffocated by the building's swollen outer bones for the building to earn accolades in a city that holds high standards for architectural immortality. The sloping sides at Bank One's base--which sweep from a width of 200 feet at the base to 95 throughout the straight upper shaft--are a neat trick, one that allows you to take cool "bending building" pictures like the ones at left. But it's too simple a trick to stay fresh after a few viewings; the building gets more boring with every glance, in a city whose ten best buildings get more interesting the more you look. The design may be unique, probably even better than mediocre, but it's disappointing to be merely good in a city that can be so great. -NB

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© Copyright 2001-2003
Nathan L.K. Bierma