Has Gehry Gone Mad?
The Inland Steel Building, one of my favorite mid-century Chicago Loop skyscrapers, is being brought into the 21st century with a major renovation which will make workspaces more environmentally and economically sustainable.
Unfortunately, a new guard desk designed--which is too complimentary a word-- by Frank Gehry has all but ruined the zen-like lobby. Made of green glass that one supposes is supposed to look like huge, misshapen ice cubes [green], the oversized desk replaces the original sleek stainless steel desk that was located subtly by the elevator banks, off the floating open space lobby. Now the new desk sits in the open space, competing in scale and substance with an elegant fountain original to the lobby. While the new desk wins in scale, it loses out in substance. Apparently the building's New York owner decided the quiet lobby needed more noise, in this case, visual noise. Which only proves once again that money and taste do not necessarily go together.
The 1958 skyscraper designed by architects Walter Netsch and Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill is defined by its sleek stainless-steel and tinted green glass skin. It was the first skyscraper built in the historic Chicago Loop after the Great Depression. The Inland Steel lobby was recently restored back to its original state. SOM will supervise the updates of the skyscraper located at 30 West Monroe Street, which was designated a Chicago landmark in 1998.
Built as the headquarters for the Inland Steel Company, the brushed steel and glass curtain wall and dramatic steel column behind the building which houses the elevators and mechanicals, is SOM's intepretation of architect Louis Sullivan's observation that "form ever follows function."
Sad to say, the new guard desk disproves Sullivan's words, as well as Mies' "less is more."
Like it or not, we'll experience Gehry's new 'design' and the magnificent mid-century lobby in which it sits, on an Off the Map City of Skyscrapers private unique walk.