Curving Up the Skyscraper
It is now known as Chase Tower, but prior to the merger of First Chicago and Bank One in 1998, this structure served as the headquarters of then banking giant, First Chicago. The building's name changed to the current one after Bank One merged with Chase in 2005.
The building is 60-stories high, with building services (water, elevators, etc.) located in two end cores. It was designed by Perkins and Will and C.F. Murphy and Associates.
One might rightfully assume that the signature curvature was a design aesthetic, possibly a precursor to the works of Frank Gehry, but that assumption would be incorrect. In 1969, Illinois state law prohibited branch banking, and ATMs were still several years off. As a consequence, each day, First Chicago had to process transactions for thousands of walk-in customers. Yet the bank executive and other business functions required normal office layouts, as did the building's other tenants--I once interviewed for an accounting job with Consolidated Edison located on one of the top floors. The taper was the solution. It provides extra space on the ground floor to accommodate the retail banking operations, but eliminated what would be wasted space for those occupying the upper floors. The lesson: We build for today, but times make much of what we do obsolete. Try finding a bank teller on the ground floor today. Oh, they are still there, but not that many,
The photograph may not fully capture the effect of the curve, but someone standing at the base, looking up, first sees the actual bend. If the person stares long enough, the top of the building appears to bend back over the person, which is just an illusion.
Oh, yes, one more critical fact--maybe the most important one. In 1989, one Michelle LaVaughn Robinson worked as an associate at Chicago powerhouse law firm, Sidley Austin, which was located in the tower. Along came one Barack Obama, who was a summer associate at Sidley. Robinson was tasked with supervising Obama. Well the rest is both a fairytale and history.