Old Chicago Skyscraper of the week: 333 N. Michigan


View of 333 N. Michigan from north of the Chicago River

View of 333 N. Michigan from north of the Chicago River

Designed by Holabird & Root and finished in 1928.  333 stands at the southwest corner of what was then called the “Michigan Avenue Plaza,” a new intersection formed when the River was bridged here as part of the Wacker Drive reconstruction.  It’s best known as a knock-off of Eliel Saarinen’s 1922 Tribune Tower entry (a scheme that many felt should have won), but on its own it is a remarkable translation of Chicago’s new zoning code.  The site was particularly narrow (only 62 x 200 feet), and Holabird & Root responded by centralizing the elevator core and shifting it to the eastern edge of the lot.  This also allowed for a future expansion, which apparently never happened.


The tower facing the River was a literal translation of a provision in the zoning code that permitted buildings to rise above the 265 foot height limit within strict limitations–only 25% of the site plan could rise above this level, and it was subject to a 10% setback slope line from the street.  The tower here, which at just over 3000 square feet fit precisely within the 25% provision, extended an extra 11 stories above a 24 story slab, peaking at 426 feet.  The three stories at the base were fitted out as shops, each of which had storage and a dedicated truck entrance on Lower Wacker Drive.

Holabird & Root chose to relocate their offices to 333 N. Michigan while it was under construction.

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