311 South Wacker Drive, Chicago
by: chicago designslinger
[311 South Wacker Drive (1990) Kohn Pedersen Fox, architects /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
There is something missing from this picture. Imagine if you will two 50-story towers running up the angled sides of 311 S. Wacker. That was the plan when the building was designed by architects Kohn Fox & Pedersen in 1990, but the economy and lots of unleased floor space in the completed 65-story structure put the kibosh on a trio-towered skyscraper.
[311 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
One part of the original plan that did eventually see the light of day was the 6-story Winter Garden, an architectural device that was very popular back in those days of post-modernism. The problem of filling the building with tenants didn't have as much to do with too much space, as it did with bad timing. Conceived 5 years prior to its opening in a booming commercial real estate market, new high-end office space was in great demand. Plus the city of Chicago was working hard to revive the downtown core by encouraging new office projects along a stretch of Wacker Drive which was once a vibrant manufacturing and warehousing district that had seen better days, and was in need of revitalization. Unfortunately by the time 311 South Wacker was ready for occupancy, the economy was rocky and renters were hard to come by.
[311 South Wacker /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
But, standing rather isolated at Wacker's southern edge, the 70-foot high drum crowning the top of the building became an instant landmark on the city's skyline, and a dramatic, sometimes derided, compliment to the dark, boxy, 110-story tower next door then known as Sears. Jump to 2010 and Sears has become Willis, and plans are in the works to build a glass tower next to the northwest facing diagonal corner of 311. The southwest facing diagonal will continue to overlook a parking lot for the foreseeable future.