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Late Entries to the Chicago Spire Hole Competition

Soon the abyss could be filled in by a new proposal. But Chicago has lots of buildings, and only one big empty hole.

Let’s figure this out.   Photo: Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune; Photo Illustration: Whet Moser

Yesterday Curbed Chicago broke the news that Related Midwest is presenting its proposal for the old Chicago Spire hole at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive, which has been an anti-monument to the Great Recession since construction stopped on the project in 2008.

It’ll be nice to have a shiny new building there, I guess. It’d be even cooler just to grab an august unbuilt proposal off the shelf, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s mile-high Illinois tower or Adolf Loos’s Tribune Tower. But in the tradition of Chicago’s architectural innovations, there’s a part of me holding out for something unexpected, so here are some suggestions, reflecting the current trends in local design.

Adaptive Reuse

It’s a metaphor for state government and the atrium will be that much cooler.

Public Art

Eye of the Tigerman pays tribute to the Mies-trained architect’s legendary provocation The Titanic in a dialogue between aesthetic tradition and financial ambition. Also the model of Crown Hall would float around.

Commerce

A downtown casino has been on ice forever. The essential design principle of a casino is that there’s no natural light and it’s hard to get out so you keep gambling. A giant hole is the perfect location while paying thematic tribute to the hole’s existence.

Active Leisure

One of the mayor’s goals has been to turn the city’s natural amenities into parks that focus on physical activity—the 606 for biking and running, the riverwalk for strolling and kayaking, the Chicago River boathouses for rowing. What Chicago doesn’t have is anything that isn’t flat, so it feels like a shame to let a good hole go to waste. Bonus points if it borrows from the Tribune Tower with a bunch of historically significant rocks to climb around on.

Classic Architecture

The bunga-hole: an unforgettable vernacular style, an unforgivable pun.

Tech Company Bait

Chicago wants tech companies. Tech companies like two kinds of amenities: outdoor spaces and things that are kind of Instagram-friendly and twee like Skee-Ball and foosball and go-karts and table tennis. Synergy.

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