Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on February 17, 1985 · 290
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · 290

Chicago, Illinois
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 17, 1985
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- 1 ., Satire i S i i f ' ; f f ::-V - is 1 . ' V 1 F'" Classical lines of City Hall-County Building contrast with glassy, high-techjw Nafecl tato office building. if. HeJmut Jhn'srState of Illinois Center is: : lBrealhtaKlgS 2. Impudanfi 3. Outrageous? 4. Idiosyncratic? 5. All the above By Paul Gapp Architecture critic ( 1 elmut Jahn's State of Illinois Center is the most cerebral, .the most abstract, yet easily the most spectacular building ever constructed in the Loop. Its in-., tenor is no less than breathtaking, as the public will soon find out. In a city where architects so long worshiped the 90-degree angle and black curtain walls, the center's asymmetry and multicolored skin appear as almost impudent nose-thumbing at the past. Some Chicago designers and art historians have,, indeed, expressed outrage over the building, claiming that its bold presence and touches of outrageousness defame Chicago's internationally honored architectural heritage. How could Jahn have done this thing Jahn, who once served as an acolyte at the International Style altar? Can the center be regarded as anything more than an ego exercise? Did not the governor of Illinois make a fool of himself by giving his architect such esthetic license? C Before these- and other questions about the center can be addressed, it is necessary to shove aside a messy debris of half-baked juratipnsjuidj faulty "notions i labblitgpyenuiaental economy. .. . .... Whether the center is as energy efficient -as it should be; why any particular firm got a construction contract; and whether cost over-runs were justifiable are not questions that should be ignored although most of those issues seem to have been raised by people who sell bricks, didn't get a piece of the action, or belong to the out-of-power political party. If any-'one has evidence of hanky-panky on any public project, let him go to a public prosecutor with it. But, please, let him not intermingle political yammering with judgments about how the building looks. It is necessary to cut this a bit finer. Those who say it was a waste of . money to give the Center its monumental character and towering rotunda horrors, that's empty space that has to be heated and cooled! are to be pitied for their pinched sense of values. There is little enough ceremony and nobility of gesture in .our .society as it is. What would the skim-pers have us do next put dropped ceilings in our cathedrals? Still, . even state officials broke under pressure when construction bills for the center began coming in. They had committed themselves to an extraordinary and rather expensive building, but in apparent fear of public wrath decided to do a number of . things on the cheap. As has been widely publicized, the officials opted for such cost-cutting nonsense as eliminating doors on pri vate offices. They also decided to haul scruffy furnishings across the street from the old state building and install , .tUcnnSTRer gleaming new center; Any corporation that did this would be ridiculed, but, there is an attitude among .taxpayers r that public ejat. ployees somehow -don't deserve any-, thing hutch betted than squalid en-' vironsJThef decision to bring in old furnishings was recently made v to seem even: more foolish when the state announced a contest for the custom design ofill pieces of-furniture tOrbe.placed in a reception area adjoining the governor'j office. , . The pinchpenny "policy affected the look of the center n other ways that will go unnoticed, except by those priwy to technical information. Jahn wanted to use tubular steel piping in . the massive space frame that sup' ports the curved and sloping side of the building, for example. The reason, very simply, is that tubular members are attractive in such applications. State cost-cutters changed the specifications to flanged steel, which does the job more cheaply but with considerably less elegance. There are interesting analogies between the new state building and the nearby Daley Civic Center built 20 : years ago. Some taxpayers were aghast back in the 1960s when the Civic Center was clad with Cor-ten steel that would rust and streak for , years before attaining a permanent russet-colored patina. They were angered by the news that an enigmatic 50-foot Picasso sculpture, also done in rusty steel, would be sited alongside at a cost of $300,000. They clucked . s 4lwlWIiBMIIiwBWlMltaiiIWrtiPMiiiWBWlrtSiMWWMWiMiirtW Geometrically patterned lower level lies under the rotund; li imTlfcM. mi iimnn iii n ir - I An unnecessary Dubuffet sculpture dogs the small plaza!

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