Saturday, February 21, 2015

Marina City
 by: chicago designslinger

 [Marina City (1962) Bertrand Goldberg, architect /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Are they Chicago's most famous buildings? Maybe, maybe not, but they are certainly two of Chicago's most photographed. Designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg in 1959, and first occupied by tenants in 1962, the "corn cobs" were instant landmarks in a city already packed with some great buildings. They were revolutionary not only for their design, but also as a new concept in city living.

  [Marina City, 300 N. State Street, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The 1959, decennial census figures were just around the corner, and the city's 1950 figure of roughly 3,620,000 was going to be down by about 70,000 people. Politicians, businessmen and labor unions could see the handwriting on the wall, and in an effort to stem the tide of middle and working class flight to the suburbs, William McFetridge, head of the Building Service Employees Union, came up with a plan. He decided to invest money from the union's pension fund into an apartment building complex that would not only create work during construction, but would offer employment to serivce employees afterwards, as well as generate interest income on the investment. It was good for the city, good for the union, good for business, and just might help kick-start a campaign of a new approach to city living, which in turn might help stem some of the exodus to the suburbs.

  [Marina City, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

Most people thought the idea was crazy, including the federal government. The FHA wouldn't guarantee the mortgage loan because the tenants would be primarily single adults or couples, residing in a central urban location, which did not meet the FHA definition of "family" living. At the time, the U.S. government was in the business of promoting life outside the city limts by offering home loans and guarantees in suburban areas, as well as spending billions of dollars in freeway and expressway construction, giving people easy access from the city and into the hinterlands. In 1959, the feds were spending upwards of $3,000 per suburban resident, while spending just under $800 per city resident.
Mc Fetridge's brief to the architect called for the creation of a "city within a city" and Goldberg delivered. Not only would the residential towers be built over underutilized railroad tracks along the main branch of the Chicago River, but the complex would include a theater, an office building, a bowling alley, an ice rink and - a marina. Goldberg wanted to call the project River City, but apparently developer Charles Swibel's wife Seena liked Marina City, and got the final say. However, the architect did get a River City named project built along the south branch of the Chicago River decades later. His original plans for the Marina City towers looked very much like the tall, rectangular boxes being designed by his mentor, and fellow Chicagoan, Mies van der
Rohe. But within months the boxes were gone, replaced by round towers with apartment floor plans shaped like pie wedges trimmed with a crimped edge of arced balconies.
Today, the city's population has fallen into the 2.7 million range. However there are now approximately 180,000 people living within a few blocks of the corn cobs, where in 1959, there were none.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.