The Pit

At one time, those living in Fulton House had spectacular views looking south and east along the Chicago River--I know because I attended some amazing parties on one of the upper floors back when my friend Claire lived in the building.  With the ongoing construction at Wolf Point Landing across the river's northerly branch, the east views from Fulton House are already and will be further obstructed.  

The first Wolf Point glass box opened in 2016.  It is dubbed Wolf Point West, with 48 stories of high-end rental units.  Construction commenced last summer on Wolf Point East, a 60-story upscale apartment project that will now have spectacular views looking east.  A third project is planned for the site.  It will be dubbed Wolf Point South.  

Wolf Point East didn't receive its final construction permit until last month.  I've been watching the pit's excavation and development since the project's commencement.  There is now a large yellow crane in place, which means that the floors will begin to rise from the pit in the not-too-distant future.

Sometime in 2019, we will see the completed structure, but it is the pit that fascinates me.  When it comes to our lust and longings, buildings are no different than human beings, which may explain why Donald Trump is both a real estate developer and a lecherous old man.  We fall in love with the outward appearance: In the case of buildings, the outer framework, glass, lines, landscaping, and reflections.  In the case of humans, the skin, outer shapes, appendages, hair, and clothes.  In both instances, we often forget the mechanical inner workings.  And we need to make sure that the outer appearances do not obscure a false soul.

Examining the pit is an opportunity to examine the inner workings of this building.  I am not sure what the pipes do.  I suspect they have a lot to do with drainage because of the area's proximity to the river.  They are so lovingly arranged into a nice geometric pattern--strong parallel lines.  And how can you not love the rusted orange circling what was once empty space, and before that, dirt?

Soon it will be impossible to reproduce anything that looks like this photograph.  The finished building will yield images that are largely differentiated by atmospheric conditions.  The building will the same in every image. But once the floors begin to rise and the cement flooring is poured, these pipes will be invisible until the building is torn down many decades from now.

Of historical interest:  The Kennedy family is behind the development of the three towers. Family patriarch Joe Kennedy acquired the Merchandise Mart and surrounding property, which included Wolf Point Landing, from Marshall Field sometime around 1945 at a cost of $13 million. The family sold much of the property in 1998 to Vornado Realty Trust, but apparently retained the ground constituting Wolf Point Landing.  

The current project was first proposed in 2012 by Christopher Kennedy, who is currently running in the Democratic primary for his party's slot on the ballot for the Illinois governorship. 

The project met with initial criticism from architectural critics because it obstructed views.  It also resulted in a lawsuit in 2013 filed by the Residences at Riverbend Condominium Association, which is located immediately south of the Fulton House complex.  I looked at purchasing a unit in the Riverbend project, but took a pass, in part because I wondered whether Wolf Point Landing would remain free of development.

Federal District Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve dismissed the lawsuit in late 2013, stating, "Illinois courts do not recognize property values, air, or light as constitutionally protected property interests." Construction on Wolf Point West began in 2014.

Wolf Point East will come in at a cost of around $380 million.  It is being developed by a joint venture between the Kennedy family, Hines Interests, and the AFL-CIO trust. The Argentine architect César Pelli's firm designed the three structures. 

Photographer's Note:  I considered converting the image to a monochrome photograph.  Aesthetically, the results did not work.  I think, in large part, that the results didn't work because the histogram was concentrated in the midtones, with very little information on either end of the curve.  In other words, there was no hint of strong contrast, which means that once the color was removed, it was difficult for the eye to differentiate the various elements in the photograph.  The color, particularly the orange and yellow, separates the steel and metal from the white and bluish gray gravel and dirt. A good lesson in post-processing. 

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