28th July 2017

Marina City complex

The skyscraper was born in Chicago, and high-rise buildings constitute one of the most important aspects of the city's identity. As an architecture student, my stay here represents some sort of academic pilgrimage. On Friday night I jumped at the chance to tag along with a friend to a soirée at an apartment on the 50th floor of the westernmost Marina City tower. The Marina City complex was designed by Bertrand Goldberg in 1959 and is one of Chicago’s most iconic projects – its two residential towers are affectionately referred to by locals as the ‘corncob buildings.’

To the amusement of everyone else, one of the highlights for me was the chance to see the trash chute running through the building core (I'd never seen one). The view of downtown from the balcony was also staggering and reminded me that this area of high-rises represents a human defiance over the natural world, in that:

  • it was built on top of a former swampland, against all the odds, pushing the norms of construction at the time
  • the artificiality that a city embodies literally and metaphorically peaks in the downtown area, where capital is king
  • the wealth that raised these buildings was generated by natural resource consumption across the Great West

Marina City under construction in the early 1960s. [Image credit]

Looking up on approach. For each tower a 20-storey spiral parking ramp is surmounted by 40 floors of condominiums.

The view from a balcony on the west tower, looking east towards the second tower and Lake Michigan.

And here I am getting far too excited about the trash chute - that takeaway dish was about to plummet 500ft...