Sunday, February 22, 2015

150 N. Michigan Avenue Building
 by: chicago designslinger

 [150 N. Michigan Avenue Building (1983) Sheldon Schlegman, A. Epstein & Sons, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Oh that slice. Some people love it, some hate it. When A. Epstein & Sons architect Sheldon Schlegman's cutting-edge design rose above the prominent Chicago intersection of Randolph and Michigan, there was a hue and cry from the architectural community heard from one end of Grant Park to the other. The building faced the city's great front yard park and was the northernmost structure of the famous Michigan Avenue wall, a line of buildings constructed during the late 1880s and early 1900s. 150 N. Michigan became, what many considered to be an exclamation point on an architectural sentence that defiled the history and context of the existing streetscape.

  [150 N. Michigan Avenue Building, 150 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The building replaced a structure designed by Holabird & Roche in 1920 for the John Crerar library. Not one of the firms more heralded buildings, the 14-story structure with its limestone facade trimmed with classically-inspired decoration did fit in nicely with the existing streetscape. When the former library building was purchased by Collins Tuttle & Co. in 1981, the New York based developer hired Epstein to designed a new building for the site. The two companies had established their working relationship when the developer hired the architects to design another Michigan Avenue building, the Borg-Warner, in 1955. They went on to design and build another 3 buildings as a team before the 150 Michigan commission came along.

 [150 N. Michigan Avenue Building, Associates Center, Stone Container Building, 150 N. Michigan Avenue Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Epstein was not known for award winning, groundbreaking design, they turned out buildings that worked for their clients. Abraham Epstein came to the U.S. at the age of 12, went to the University of Illinois where he got an engineering degree and opened a structural engineering office on Chicago's Pershing Road in 1921. Primarily the structural engineer on large manufacturing and industrial projects, Epstein, later joined by sons Raymond and Sidney, expanded into a very busy and profitable architectural and engineering design firm.
Construction on One Parke Place started in 1981, but by the time the building was ready for occupancy in 1983, the name had changed to 150 North Michigan Avenue. In 1986, when U.S. Equities Group took over as leasing agent, the name was changed to Associates Center for primary tenant Associates Combined Corporation. Then the name was changed to the Stone Container Building and after a merger in the 1990s, the Smurfit-Stone Building. Then after Smurfit-Stone was purchased and relocated out of Chicago in 2010, the building went back to being called 150 N. Michigan.
Has time softened the harsh criticism of the dramatic, streetscape-altering slice? Apparently the steep slope has charmed the millions of people flooding into Chicago's newest and hottest attraction, Millennium Park, so perhaps all is forgiven.

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