Big Santi vs. Big John

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A new Chicago Spire is due to be unveiled to the public this Monday – it’ll taper more at the top because people here rejected Calatrava II up on the left. We didn’t like the flat-top haircut he’d given his original design, in order to get more usable space up there. The new Calatrava will again taper.

All this got me to reconsider the John Hancock as I see it out my window.

I wondered if the Hancock could be nicer if it tapered more at the top too. It’s flat top of course is a product of the Modernist times. I like how it’s the horizontal of the prairie, and anyway there are not one but two antennas on top, to continue and resolve the upward thrust.

But the comparison won’t go away. Calatrava knows where he’s building and what our legacy is. So though he’s an out-of-towner, from Spain, then Zurich, how will his tower fit in with the great locally designed works? If his “Chicago Spire” finds the financing to get built here, in the long run will it be more pleasing to the eye than the “iconic” John Hancock tower?

The dancer vs. the muscleman.

Throw down the gauntlet, from the 95th floor. It certainly could end up prettier, with its fair skin and eternally swirling upward dance, from feet, nimbly on the ground – Calatrava III will lose the parking at ground level and meet the street in more humanist manner; up to her peak on which Calatrava III adds a bright searchlight on top shooting straight up.

Big John is a more monolithic unmoving presence. He always was a bit awkward at ground level. And he shows off a little too much – his x braces like abs. His mood and the energy he gives off is dependent on and altered mostly by the shifting mist or fog at his very top, around the bright white (church or lighthouse-like) lantern on top, so odd for being horizontal up there, but intriguing and satisfying in a Midwestern way for it. And the bright light on top works well to remind you of how high in the sky he his.

The Hancock’s tapering slope up to heaven feels right, and I’ll always admire its simple straightforward honesty.

-E

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