What might have been: The ill-fated Chicago Spire

August 24, 2012

The Chicago Spire would have been built and standing for almost a year by now, had all gone according to plan: a 2,000 ft. tall tower — with the twisted profile of a drillbit — that would have been Chicago's newest landmark.

Of course, fate and finance intervened beginning with the real estate collapse of 2008 and the project was halted. All that remains are memories, lawsuits, liens and a cofferdam 80 ft. deep and slightly more than 100 ft. in diameter on the tower's former site.

That and this four-minute, dreamlike animation of the Chicago Spire, created when the project seemed viable. Posted on YouTube by user lincolnparkmedia, the video is a Surrealist piece of filmmaking with parting clouds, a dramatically falling rain drop and white dove flying past the towers torsioned facade. The score reminds me of the music they played when the heroes reached the cave in those old Jules Verne movie adaptations that used to come on "Family Classics" when I was kid. But it's a welcome relief to the thumping techno that usually accompanies animation like this.

Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the architect/engineer responsible for some of the finest-looking contemporary bridges in the world (and the bird-like Milwaukee Art Museum) the Spire would have been the city's signature building as well as the tallest building in the United States.

A missed opportunity, yes. But so were the Miglin-Beitler Tower, 7 South Dearborn and other stillborn skyscrapers of recent decades. The city weathers these setbacks — and moves on.