New Calatrava design for Chicago is “a bit” worse.

It came from Europe and it was svelte.

Here’s the initial version unveiled about a year and a half ago.

Here’s the new version unveiled today.

What, hang around Chicago a year and a half and you develop
broad shoulders

The first version is sleek, euro-chic, and urbane. But after spending time in the Midwest, the svelte ultra-feminine tower has, shall we say, gained a few pounds. Broadened out.

And what’s with that flat-top?

Calatrava says, “I am learning from Chicago.”

So the tower will be more like

Chicago’s John Hancock and Sears Tower.

That’s a mistake.

The Hancock is great, it tapers beautifully and romantically; it’s cut off at the top, but the antennae continue the tapering in the mind’s eye*.

The Sears – actually it’s a bit clunky.

But anyway architecturally, it’s time for this very young city to reinvent itself, to design itself better than it was, to move past its past to embrace the best of today. Contextualism is not needed if you can now do it better.

Nobody loves modernism more than I. I love and respect Chicago’s great architectural legacy. But tall towers such as the new Calatrava should not be flattened at the top.



how it used to be here.

Chicago needs more romance. That’s the point.

I thought our Mayor loved spires and required Adrian Smith to put a spire back atop Trump Tower Chicago after Adrian removed it from the design.

Well, the Calatrava tower too will also undergo more design changes before it ever gets built – if it does get built. 160 stories of 1,300 condo units? Construction costs in the ballpark of 1.5 Billion? $2,000 a square foot to live there? That’s about double the top current prices here.

Yes, I agree, it’d be great for our skyline. And the rendering is pretty. But you’d have to be a sailor far out on Lake Michigan to ever see the thing from that vantage point. And gorgeous Calatrava renderings are the easy part.

– Edward.

See another rendering of the newly proposed tower here.

*In the way that the best Chicago architecture has often been about what’s there, and what’s not there.
Like life in Chicago. We have the great nothingness of the lake, right next to the great somethingness of the city.

Here’s the developer’s press release:

Shelbourne Development Files New Design of “The Chicago Spire” with the City of Chicago

Community Groups Applaud New Look of 400 North Lake Shore Drive

CHICAGO / December 7, 2006 – Tomorrow, December 8, Shelbourne Development Group, Inc. will officially file for final design approval with the City of Chicago to build “The Chicago Spire,” a landmark 2,000-foot tall spiraling tower at the mouth of the Chicago River along the shores of Lake Michigan. The new plan includes several improvements to the original design that will enhance the building’s integration with the riverfront and minimize traffic flow through the neighborhood.

“We have taken what was a highly-innovative design and turned it into something even more desirable,” said Garrett Kelleher, executive chairman of Shelbourne Development Ltd. & the Shelbourne Development Group, Inc. “We look forward to the city’s approval and to breaking ground next year.”

Famed architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, who is both the lead architect and engineer for the project, echoed Kelleher’s enthusiasm. “”The sculptural idea of an extremely slender building that twists as it rises has been retained. But, I believe the design is more mature than it was initially, and the relationship between the building and the city is better, which is something I could accomplish only with Mr. Kelleher’s partnership,” said Calatrava.

Tomorrow, the city planning department will begin reviewing the proposal, which calls for a property encompassing 3 million square feet and soaring 2,000-feet above the ground. However, unlike the initial concept, The Chicago Spire will not include a broadcast antenna, nor will it include a hotel or retail space. The number of floors has increased from 124 to 160, and the number of exclusive residences now total 1,300. The tower’s spectacular lobby will feature 56-foot tall ceilings and glass walls allowing for an unobstructed view through the base on all sides.

To maximize the property’s riverfront access, The Chicago Spire will be situated along the Ogden Slip at the northern end of the property. The new plans call for an underground 5-floor garage, which will sit under the building’s riverside plaza. The development team is also dedicated to the early development of DuSable Park, which borders the property to its East.

Kelleher and members of his development team, including Calatrava, conducted a series of introductory meetings this week with city homeowners and community groups with a presence in the Streeterville area to discuss development plans and the construction of the building.

“It was important to us that we had the opportunity to receive feedback from the community before submitting our design for city approval,” said Kelleher. “I am now even more confident that we will develop a building that the city and neighborhood will embrace and which will take its rightful place in the history of modern architecture.”

The earliest the city might approve the changes would be next month. For more information about The Chicago Spire and Shelbourne Development Group, Inc., see

About Shelbourne Development
Shelbourne Development, headquartered in Dublin, is one of Ireland’s leading property development companies, widely regarded as one of the country’s most professional and progressive developers. In the past three years, Shelbourne’s experienced team, known for its track record in evaluating and capitalizing on cycles in property markets, has completed in excess of 1.5 million square feet of construction in Ireland. It currently has a development pipeline in Dublin in excess of $2 billion US. Shelbourne is currently pursuing developments and projects in Ireland, UK, France and Chicago. Garrett Kelleher, executive chairman of Shelbourne Development Ltd & the Shelbourne Development Group, Inc. holds significant investment properties in Europe.

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