In the past, Day 2 of Open House Chicago seems to draw fewer people. That was not true today, at least by my experience. I started the day at 300 East Randolph on the 30th floor of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower overlooking Millennium Park.

When originally built in 1997, the building rose 33 stories (several were below street grade). Then in a very unusual move, Health Care Service, BCBS’s parent company, decided to add an additional 24 stories to the building at a cost of $270 million. Somehow they managed to pull the expansion off without relocating the operations or employees. Obviously the building and its foundation were built with that possibility in mind. From an engineering standpoint, the most impressive aspect of the entire effort is the elevator expansion

Open House Chicago visitors had some difficulty gaining access to the building this morning. The streets were closed because a helicopter was removing transformers or some other type of equipment from the roof of the AON Center.

As my images demonstrate, the view from the 30th floor is spectacular. When well-above tree level, it is possible to discern some order to Grant Park—Daniel Burnham must be happy. The viewpoint is also perfect for discerning Frank Gehry’s serpentine bridge over Columbus Drive.

While most people were focused on the southern view, I made a point of heading over to the windows on the north side. The surprise was Aqua, the 82-story hotel/apartment building that brought much acclaim to its architect, Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang. From the ground looking up, all you see is the geometry of the white floors with gently undulating curves. You don’t see the balcony rails, which are recessed, nor do you see all the furniture and other flotsam sitting on the terraces. Instead, you see elongated glass teardrops that are reflecting the sky and clouds. The illusion: The conjunction of the curved floors and glass create the teardrop-like shapes. But when you are looking at the floors straight-on, the teardrops disappear. From this perspective, the building becomes another glass, metal, and cement high-rise. The reveal was a real eyeopener. While the illusion was gone, the experience made me better appreciate Gang’s genius. Most viewers are looking up from the ground.

After spending a good hour and half from my perch above Grant Park, I headed crosstown on Randolph. Just over the river sits 150 North Riverside Plaza, which is one of the two new buildings that rose above the once open railroad yards leading to Union Station. There was a long line in the lobby, but it moved very quickly—I waited no more than five minutes.

We had access to the 27th floor of this 54-story building. I had been in the lobby many times, but never higher. The views were spectacular despite the slight haze in the air. The best view was from the north side looking north and east. The haze hadn’t overtaken the blue sky.

The building is an interesting one. It fully supports the open-office concept. There are no structural supports beyond the building core.

From the ground, the building is visually unsettling. The two outer rectangular boxes are attached to the core, which rises from a concrete base, with each side cantilevering from the base. It is that core that supports the structure, with massive steel columns shifting the weight to the core and the caissons, which extend 110-feet below ground to bedrock.

All that concrete is not sufficient to balance the building on its perch without some sway. At the top, there are two-concrete vaults that hold water. The effect is to dampen any sway when the Hawk heads into town.

Only from the 8th floor up do the floors become full-sized (27,000 square feet). Chicagoans have dubbed this structure “The Tuning Fork” and “The Guillotine.”

Unfortunately for today’s visitors, the staff barred entrance to the north side building 45 minutes after I arrived. On the floor below, a production company was filming scenes for an upcoming movie, or so I was told. All the people were disturbing the crews efforts, which doesn’t say much for the building’s stability or soundproofing—I didn’t see anyone jumping up or down or using a sledgehammer.

Fortunately, I had done the “damage” before being kicked out. As is typical in these situations, I had circled the floor with my 120mm lenses before the prohibition. I would have liked to go back with a wide angle for another sweep, but no such luck today.

From 150 North Riverside Plaza, I walked over to Prairie Materials at Halstead and Chicago. More about that in the next post, but as a teaser, it proved to be the best stop on today’s and past tours of Open House Chicago.

[Click on an image to enlarge it]

Jeanne Gang’s Agua: The Illusion Revealed

The Midpoint (Approximately)

The Columbia Yacht Club

Gehry’s Serpent at the north end of Grant Park (that portion has been designated as the Maggie Daley Park)

Coming In Without a Load

Looking West Over the Bean and the Bund

Over The Great Lawn With a Full Load

The Randolph Corridor

Behind the Bund


A Mirror in the City

The Forever-Raised Bridge

Never Again

Bending Against the Flow

Above the Below From Above the Down

Prairie Materials: One Million Yards From Here to There

Hey Newman

New Apartments Everywhere

Photographer’s Notes: BHPhoto owes me a commission on every LensSkirt they sell this week. “Hey what’s that thing you’re attaching to the window?” It’s a lens skirt. It eliminates internal window glare and reflections much better than your coat wrapped around your lens. And for you iPhone folks. Your photographs are really going to suck today because of the glare or the window vibrations. The glare in the Blue Cross Blue Shield building was particularly bad, but the LensSkirt saved the day.

And in the “Somebody Always Has Better Equipment Than You” department: Lots of people asked me about the camera I was using, but I was in the awe of the guy shooting the Hasselblad 501c. He had a LensSkirt.

And one more thing: I found out that BHVideo is now charging Illinois sales tax. I checked the day that was supposed to start, but it hadn’t. I couldn’t be more thrilled. No need for me to file use tax returns anymore (at least based on my purchase patterns).

Ready Mix Sommeliers

Ready Mix Sommeliers

OH Chi I

OH Chi I