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Tall Buildings

23 October, 2007; 12:00 Leave a comment Go to comments

dscf1207.jpgOn the day of my flight out of Chicago, I had plenty of time in the morning to make another trip to downtown, so I checked out, left my bags with the concierge, and hopped on the Blue Line again. Today the skies were (mostly) blue, so I knew what I had to do: go up in one of Chicago’s famous skyscrapers!…

As I learned in New York last February, the best views in skyscraper-cities are not always in the tallest building. There, Deborah and I went up to the top of the Rockerfeller Center instead of the more traditional Empire State Building. This was better for several reasons: the observation deck is just generally nicer, plus you can actually walk outside on top of The Rock without having to look through heavy iron bars, and lastly (and most instructive for Chicago), by being not quite as high as you could, but close, you end up with a view of the city that’s actually more impressive than if you were at the highest point. Plus, then you can actually see the tallest building as part of your view.

water-tower.jpgBack to Chicago: I chose the John Hancock Center. Somewhere I read that a survey of Chicagoans rated it the best view, and it’s currently the 3rd-tallest building in Chicago, after the Sears Tower and the Aon Center (originally the Standard Oil Building). Also, it’s located in a part of town where I could also see the old Water Tower, and afterwards I could kill some time by strolling along the shopping district the Magnificent Mile. First stop, the Old Water Tower. The Water Tower is actually one of the oldest buildings in Chicago, predating and surviving the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Stopping to take the photo at right, I was surprised to find that the Water Tower is as tall as the John Hancock Center, but then it shrank again as I walked on.

I hopped onto the elevator, and as we passengers were accelerated and decelerated again up to the observation deck, a voiceover distracted us from the disconcerting effects by reminding us that the John Hancock Center is “the world’s most recognized building”. Huh? Can anyone tell me how this could possibly be true? The one statistic that I would believe is that it’s actually the world’s most misrecognized building, as indicated by someone I had overheard on the train two days earlier, saying “yeah, I can see the Sears Tower now”, while actually she was pointing at the John Hancock Center. Since the JHC is close to the lakeshore, it is more visible than the Sears Tower, but the ST is absolutely more famous by name, since it was, for a few decades, the tallest building in the world. In any case, this is what the recorded voice claimed, and there was no one in the elevator who I could challenge on that point.

lakeshore.jpgThe view, however, did not disappoint. Apparently, on a clear day you can see not only Illinois, but also Wisconsin (which yes, you probably can see in this shot, though I’m not completely certain), Indiana, and Michigan (certainly Indiana, but I couldn’t make out any land across the lake to Michicgan). Since the JHC is at the edge of downtown, one can see the entire other set of tall buildings on one side, and Lake Shore Drive to the north on the other. Here’s Lake Shore Drive, which leads to Lincoln Park (the park itself is the big area of green trees, right in the center of the shot), where I stayed the first night in Chicago. Oh, those buildings may look tall, but those are just the condominiums that line the waterfront to the north of Chicago. Already, those are about three times the height of most buildings in central Stockholm, but they’re nothing compared to downtown Chicago.

trump-tower.jpgOh yeah, now we’re talkin’. Here’s a shot the other direction, south to Downtown. Off to the right, a bit in the distance, is the dark, foreboding Sears Tower. Also, in the center, you can see a tall building under construction, with a large yellow crane mounted to its top completed levels. This is the new Trump International Hotel and Tower, which, when completed next year, will take over as the 2nd-tallest building in Chicago, knocking the Aon Center and the John Hancock Center down a notch to 3rd and 4th.

Later on, sometime around 2011, the “Chicago Spire” will be completed, a residential tower that will be the tallest free-standing structure in North America – taller than the Sears Tower, the CN Tower in Toronto, and the under-construction Freedom Tower in New York. The Chicago Spire is designed by the currently-hot architect Santiago Calatrava (remember the Milwaukee Art Museum? Or if any Swedes are reading, think: Turning Torso). Anyway, the building has only just had its groundbreaking in 2007, and the site is completely obscured from the JHC by other buildings, so don’t go hunting for it in the forest of skyscrapers in the photo.

Back at street-level, I walked out again onto the Magnificent Mile and did some casual shopping, taking advantage of that cheap American Dollar! Really, all I bought was two pairs of slacks for teaching, but they were a pretty good deal. Just think: when I moved to Sweden, 100 Swedish crowns would get me $14.25. Now, it gets me $15.60. Put another way, it’s like the entire U.S.A. has gone on an 8.5%-off sale! I might just do even more shopping when I go home for Christmas.

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Categories: travel
  1. Paul Franklin
    5 November, 2007; 6:23 at 6:23

    oh, dear. I don’t want to think about how much more expensive my Europe trip will probably be this summer than it would have been had I gone last May.

  2. Brian Hsi
    16 November, 2007; 18:04 at 18:04

    ahh the windy city. the hanncock tower is nice. we’d take out of towners there whenever they visited to see the city. it’s quite nice at night too when you can see all the city lights.

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