San Diego, CA
Chicago Crain Communications Building - Former Smurfit-stone
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© Christine Till
The Crain Communications Building - Also known as: Diamond Building
Formerly: 150 North Michigan Avenue
Formerly: Smurfit-Stone Building
Formerly: Stone Container Building
Formerly: Associates Center
The Smurfit-Stone Building (now Crain Communications Building) in Chicago, Illinois is one of a kind. Some may argue it is the most unique building to distinguish the Chicago skyline from others. Finished in 1984, the 582 foot (177 m) skyscraper at the northwest corner of Grant and Millennium Parks, nestled between the classical columns of the Chicago Cultural Center, the cone-topped Two Prudential, and the plain boxes of Prudential headquarters and the AON Center, has a slanted top that carves through the top 10 of its 41 floors. The official count of 41 floors does not include 5 levels of unused space in the narrowest portion at the top of the diamond. Some wags have pointed out that the Crain Communications Building, with its diamond-shape top, looks like a skyscraper slashed with a knife.
This building is one of Chicago's signature structures, what it lacks in height, it more than makes up for in style. Its gleaming white exterior is accented with dark pinstripes of windows. Its orientation embraces Lake Michigan just a few hundred yards away, while at the same time it's characteristic slanted roof mimics, mocks, or yearns to be part of the sailboat crowd in the nearby Chicago Harbor.
The architects didn't merely take a square and cut a wedge out of it like a children's block. They cut it on an angle, using a simple subtractive motion to create a diamond shape in the sky. Closer examination reveals that it isn't even a simple diamond, but rather two nearly identical triangles, but that is a detail lost on most observers. What they delight in is the notion that the building is still not done inventing itself. That it is growing with a leading angle like a massive lily sprouting on the lakeshore. Others fail to see the beauty and whimsy intrinsic to this building. Instead, they see it as an affront to the other classic Chicago architecture on Michigan Avenue.
But if not for those buildings that stand out, would not the Avenue's marble cliff seem that much more ordinary and under appreciated?
October 26th, 2012
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