“Google’s decision to take up residence in the James R. Thompson Center, formerly the State of Illinois Center, is a meaningful victory for Chicago’s preservationists and a very useful reminder that the city’s architectural gems include more recent buildings designed by postmodernists such as the late, great Helmut Jahn who died in a cycling accident last year.
“Jahn’s polarizing, multicolored 1985 building, it has turned out, was no white elephant after all.
“The all-glass exterior and the arrestingly layered skylight atrium were originally designed to suggest transparent state government. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but nonetheless an example of Jahn’s audacity and ambition, especially as he plunked down that crazy building amid Chicago’s boxy, straighter-laced skyscrapers.
“Even its admirers, and we are among them, have to admit the Thompson Center appears to be a North Loop visitor from another planet. Naysayers have long complained about its high energy and maintenance costs proving overly expensive for the state.
“But the theatricality of the building clearly appealed to Google’s parent Alphabet, whose high-profile arrival in that struggling section of downtown Chicago will be an important and timely economic boost to the surrounding blocks. And the sale drops $105 million in the state’s coffers to boot.
“Like many other corporations, Alphabet is struggling to get its workers back to the office. The purchase of such a signature building surely will be a part of incentivizing workers to get social and collaborative all over again. And it is, of course, a major commitment from a blue-chip, high-tech innovator toward not just a signature building, but downtown Chicago as a whole.
“Jahn, surely, would be as happy as anyone with an outcome far better than we had dared to hope. Ideally, we’ll still be able to get a sandwich, if not a driver’s license, in that gloriously weird atrium.” (Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, 7/28/22)
Thompson Center, luckily, shows up in Google’s search for office space; The sale bodes well for the Thompson Center, but also for a downtown that’s still staggering from the pandemic and needs all the help, energy — and new office workers — it can get, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 7/27/22