“The original mixed-use highrise”
Walk to a block of land north of the Chicago River, across from Wacker Drive between State and Dearborn Streets, and look up. Chances are the complex of Marina City, dominated by two cylindrical concrete towers, will grab you. You will feel something. Awe, wonder. Like me, you may not have the training in architecture or art to put into words what you are seeing. But you know that you are seeing something unique, and you are feeling something you cannot fully describe. “You get that reaction when looking at pure truth,” explains art historian David Jameson. He has invested much thought into the architectural and artistic significance of Marina City, and he can help us understand what we are looking at from Wacker Drive. “When you look at Marina City from the sidewalk or from across the river, it’s like an x-ray into the building itself. You’re not really looking at the building, you’re looking into the building.” True, you can see right into the parking ramps, which are not normally shown off so explicitly. “He didn’t cover up the parking structure,” notes Jameson, referring to Marina City’s architect,Bertrand Goldberg. “He could have put a curtain wall around that. He could have done all kinds of things. But he probably didn’t think it was ugly. So why even try to cover it up? It wouldn’t have even been a problem to him.” Built on unused railroad property in the early 1960s at a cost of $36 million, Marina City was a Chicago icon that is now an international celebrity.
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