Chicago’s Marina City Towers Could Get Landmark Status

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Bertrand Goldberg’s legacy took a hard hit in 2013, quite literally: the Chicago architect’s 1975 Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern University, a seminal project of computer-generated design, was demolished at the end of the year. Though preservationists caused an uproar nationally about the destruction of such an idiosyncratic, exceptional structure, the building had no municipal landmark status and was thus impossible to save for the private institution’s wrecking ball.

Now, there’s reason to hope that another Goldberg masterpiece in Chicago, the Marina Towers, won’t have to meet a similar fate. “The iconic Chicago riverfront complex famed for its corncob-shaped towers, could soon be on the way to becoming an official city landmark,” reports Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin.

“The modernist complex at 300 N. State St. will be recommended Thursday for preliminary landmark status at a meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks,” Kamin continues. A lengthy report (54 pages) from the Commission singles the towers out as exceptional architectural exemplars from a period that didn’t want for great architecture: They are “the most ambitious and forward-thinking post-war urban renewal project in Chicago in an era defined by ambitious urban renewal projects,” he quotes from the report. Indeed,visitors and locals alike often express disbelief that the towers, with their utterly distinctive shape and their inventive combination of stacked parking and living units, are not already landmarked.

With that in mind, it’s not unlikely that the Marina City towers will indeed receive landmark designation — a title that would give Chicago officials final say over changes to both the exterior and the interior. The latter has been a contentious issue in recent years; tower residents have taken liberties with renovations that irk preservationists. Should the buildings receive landmark designation, such changes to the interior will have to be approved by municipal officials before even minor renovations can begin.

— Anna Kats (@coldwarcasual)

Image courtesy the Chicago History Museum, Hedrich Blessing Archive.