Inside looking out: A view of downtown architecture from Trump Tower

January 20, 2011

What does Chicago look like from inside Trump Tower?

I found out a few days ago while visiting condominium units on the tower's 39th floor as prep for a private event WBEZ is hosting there tonight. And though most of you (ok, pretty much none of you) were invited, your favorite architecture critic and flaneur did not forget about you. So today I'm showing you some images of the city I took from inside Trump.

We'll start with the photo above: a look straight east down the Main Branch of the river. Look at old, midcentury and new Chicago all pulling up to the water's edge. The Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower and, to the right, 360 N. Michigan Avenue and the Deco 333 N. Michigan cover the first three decades of the 20th century. Then the Equitable Building shows up next to the Tribune Tower in 1965; then the circa 1970 Illinois Center is built on the south bank of the river, followed by the Cityfront Center in the late 1980s and early 1990s just beyond the Equitable Building. This century produced Lakeshore East to the right of the Main Branch in this photo. That tall building to the far right is Aqua Tower.

The photo above is Wacker Drive as it wraps around Michigan Avenue and goes east. I like the pairing of Mather Tower, the slender, vertical, telescoping building in the middle of the front row next to the late 1950s-cool Hotel 71 with its horizontal bands just to the right. It works. My how the city has grown since the Mather was built, however; when it the building opened it was the tallest in Chicago until it got bumped aside by the taller Chicago Board of Trade Building in 1930.

Below is a view looking northwest. Here you see how the height and density of the skyline quickly falls away within a few blocks. But look closer and you can see newer buildings are vastly taller than the older ones. Height will win out once the market picks up. Whenever that will be:

In this southwest view, you can feel the heft of the Mies van der Rohe-designed 330 N. Michigan as it faces off against the buildings on the other side of the river at Wabash.

During the visit, I couldn't help but think about the Chicago Sun-Times building that once sat on this site, and where I worked for almost a decade. The highest spot in the building was a room on the top floor that was used for special occasions. Doors led out to an outdoor deck with impressive views of the river. It was eight stories high. That would be about where the parking garage of Trump Tower is today.

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