Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Calatrava screw

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WISN’s Mark Belling claims his producer thinks the proposed 150 story Calatrava building in Chicago looks like a drill bit. I’m going to hold off on my reaction a bit. But is the building is ever completed, it will be the world’s tallest at 150 stories. Blair Kamin in the Chicago Tribune claims the “odds are now better than even money that it will succeed as a work of skyline sculpture and as a building that engages the city around it.”

At best, this will be a new Eiffel Tower, a scale-shattering yet superb skyline statement that becomes the new postcard image of Chicago.

At worst, as less persuasive renderings of the tower suggest, it will be a visual cartoon, a supersize, superskinny version of a soft-serve ice cream cone.

Well, that’s a more charitable description that the general description of the last drawing, “The Twizzler Tower.”

Since then, the restless architect has moved gradually to the present plan, in which the tower rises energetically but nobly, making a 360-degree twist as it moves from the ground to a sharply articulated summit.

In January, he unveiled sketches to the Tribune that gave the tower a newly pointed top and promised a restoration of the tower’s whirling upward drive. Then, accommodating complex structural requirements, he settled on the current design, which is somewhat bulkier than the pencil-like January version but remains attractively slender. Gone is another version, also revealed to community groups last month, that had too much twist in its top and revealed Calatrava’s tendency to lapse into the visually hyperactive.

One other local critic had a little different description. “…but one glance and you may have the same response I did: It’s disturbingly phallic. Will people rename it the Chicago Dildo?” Meanwhile, the Indignant Citizen takes a look at the finances of the deal and wonders if the artist renderings are all we’ll ever see of the Chicago Spire.

Give Kelleher credit; it was nice of him and Calatrava to spend the time with the CAF members and docents discussing the Chicago Spire.

But the reality is all he has are drawings, and even those aren’t in final form yet. He hasn’t sold a single condominium unit and he has no outside investors, other than the bank that financed the land acquisition. Despite this, he insists he will break ground this spring. Don’t hold your breath.

At the CAF forum, Kelleher did not come across as any kind of sleazy developer. He seems like a genuinely nice and charming fellow, and he obviously has a strong desire to see this project completed. After all, as proposed the Chicago Spire would be by far the biggest jewel in his development portfolio, a career capper that would take its place in the Chicago skyline—the world’s best skyline—in between icons like the Sears Tower and the Hancock Center. But Kelleher has one problem he can’t avoid: He doesn’t have the money to build the thing.

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