new union station ‘tower’

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SCB Architects

I’ve been keeping out of trouble this last month with conference prep and a big digital project finishing up this week, but couldn’t let this one go.  The above image is from SCB, of their proposed extension to Chicago’s Union Station.  It’s had a pretty well-deserved thrashing in the press in the last 24 hours, but I think it’s worth piling on–if only to point out that the Station’s current stubby proportions were largely a result of its timing.  Originally designed by D.H. Burnham & Co. in 1913–one of the last projects to enjoy Burnham’s attention before his death–it had a protracted construction history.  Delayed by WWI, re-designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White in 1921, and ultimately completed in 1927, a planned tower over its skylit waiting room never fully materialized, and was doomed once the Depression took hold.  Its short, four-story office ‘tower’ is all that was ever built of a planned 16-story skyscraper that would have given the station a real presence on the West Loop skyline.

Or, really, not quite all that was ever built.  Foundations were poured assuming that the skyscraper would be built, and so yesterday’s plan would take advantage of the substructure that’s already there–just not anywhere near the (ahem) somewhat more elegant proportions foreseen by GAPW:


Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1921