Marina City
300 N. State St.

Marina City

2001 NB

The Marina City towers are twin monuments to suburban sprawl-- actually, to the reversal thereof. In the midst of postwar America's severe case of white flight, the hollowed-out cities left behind were dreary places. Marina City was designed to enliven its bank of the Chicago River and revive interest in the city. The unique cylindrical forms are the work of architect Bertram Goldberg. He intended the buildings to function as trees, with trunk-like cores from which apartment pods sprouted like leaves. The 60-story towers, which were the tallest concrete structures in the world upon their completion in the mid-1960s, have been compared to two corn cobs or two stacks of pies. Beyond its aesthetic intrigue, Goldberg wanted Marina City to be a self-contained city. When they opened, the towers contained offices, a theater, a grocery store, restaurants, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, parking, and, at their roots, a marina to dock boats. Goldberg had to get around Chicago's zoning codes which prohibited such mixed-use facilities. Since then, Marina City has become the home of the House of Blues.

Goldberg's philosophy of organic architecture stands in ironic contrast with the plain, all-right-angles IBM Center directly across the street from Marina City--a black box that was designed by one of Goldberg's teachers. Here is how Goldberg described his architectural vision:

"Our time.., has made us aware that forces and strains flow in patterns which have little relationship to the rectilinear concepts of the Victorian engineers. We have become aware of the almost live quality which our structures achieve, and we seek the forms which give the most life to our structures."

These are my favorite two buildings in Chicago; arguably no others are as instructive icons of Chicago's commitment to urban vitality and architectural imagination. -NB

-More about Marina City from GreatBuildings.com and Skyscrapers.com


© Copyright 2001-2003
Nathan L.K. Bierma