The Chicago Spire In (Or Rather, Out Of) Context
The embarassing mega-antennea is gone. Thank God.
Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, has a new article on the re-designed supertall skyscraper proposed for the city's downtown waterfront. Kamin's assesment of the building is mixed: while he praises the its inspiring silhouette for breaking "the flat-topped precedent of Sears Tower and Chicago's other 20th Century giants," he argues that the Spire still has a ways to go.
I have to agree, though I doubt that it will ever become what it should be. As Kamin's multimedia presentation (which accompanies the article) notes, Calatrava stated in a recent presentation that the form of the Chicago Spire is based on a snail's shell. What, exactly, does this have to do with downtown Chicago? You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who'd deny the abundance of potential contextual cues that could be taken from a site like the one that the Spire is proposed for. Chicago has a legendary architectural tradition...and perhaps this is why the (I'll admit, much improved) re-design of the Spire still doesn't feel right: there's no Chicago in it.
My main complaint about most of Calatrava's recent buildings is that, while many are fascinating in terms of their innovative engineering and daring form, they almost never feel like they belong where they are proposed. The starchitect's designs (like those of most contemporary starchitects) feel as if they started as ideas in their creators' heads, and were then superimposed onto a site to which they were not at all connected, purely for the purpose of making a bold personal -- not architectural -- statement. The Spire feels like a very tall, very shiny emblem for the greatness of Santiago Calatrava, not of Chicago.
And seeing as how Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper, this seems especially inappropriate.
EDIT (3/28/2007 - 6:22 PM): I forgot to mention -- I do love the amount of public discussion that this project is generating. Whenever the public gets interested in architecture, someone's doing something right. It's just not always the architect of the subject matter.
Calatrava Unveils Towers Latest Twist (Chicago Tribune)
The Chicago Spire