WIN: Long Awaited Thompson Center Renderings Show Building and Atrium Saved, but Some Details May Be Lost (Chicago 7 2016, 2018, 2019 & 2020)

Current view of James R. Thompson Center, 1985, Helmut Jahn, 100 W. Randolph Street. Photo Credit: JAHN Architects
Current night view of James R. Thompson Center, 1985, Helmut Jahn, 100 W. Randolph Street. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Rendering of James R. Thompson Center Reuse, 1985, Helmut Jahn, 100 W. Randolph Street. Photo Credit: JAHN Architects
Current view of James R. Thompson Center, 1985, Helmut Jahn, 100 W. Randolph Street. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Current view of James R. Thompson Center interior, 1985, Helmut Jahn, 100 W. Randolph Street. Photo Credit: Serhii Chrucky
Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, interviewed regarding the James R. Thompson Center by Rob Hughes of ABC 7 Eyewiteness News Chicago on December 13, 2023. James R. Thompson Center, 1985, Helmut Jahn, 100 W. Randolph Street. Image Credit: ABC 7 Eyewitness News Chicago
Starship Chicago II, a documentary film by Nathan Eddy. (40:30) Image credit: Starship Chicago II

“Google’s plan is ‘light-years from the demolition discussions of the past,’ Preservation Chicago executive director Ward Miller said.

“‘In general, it’s wonderful to see the Thompson Center’s overall form, its 17-story atrium and plaza concept all retained, so that’s all very good,’ Miller said. We believe this is heading in a good direction, but hoping there are many refinements to come.”‘ (Bey, Chicago Sun-Times, 12/13/23)

“The James R. Thompson Center will undergo a floor-by-floor gut rehab beginning early next year, but the building will retain its atrium while also opening up the base of the structure to retail, according to renderings released by Google Wednesday. Google will occupy the Loop icon once the renovation of the building is complete.

“Historic preservationists who fought to save the Helmut Jahn-designed building from the wrecking ball praised the development team for its plan to preserve the 17-story atrium.

“‘This design looks very different from the initial schematics we saw a year ago,’ said Ward Miller, executive director of the nonprofit Preservation Chicago. ‘That’s to be commended, and I think it’s wonderful the atrium is to be saved. My hat’s off to Google and the developers for taking on this project and committing to not demolishing the building and rethinking it as a corporate headquarters.’

“A venture led by Chicago developers Michael Reschke and Quintin Primo bought the Thompson Center in 2022 from the state of Illinois for $105 million, and Google agreed to take it over after the renovation is complete in several years.

“The developers will replace the building’s glass facade, and renderings show a new glass curtain that lets in more natural light, a new public plaza with trees and spaces for food and beverage retailers, and covered terraces on the first three levels of the southeast side.

“‘With more natural light, access to green space, and biophilic design elements that borrow from nature, the original design’s ode to transparency and openness will live on,’ said Karen Sauder, Google’s Chicago site leader, in a statement.

“Gov. J.B. Pritzker has high hopes Google’s outpost in the heart of downtown will bolster Chicago’s reputation as technology leader.

“‘When I became governor, I promised to serve as our state’s chief marketing officer — touting the many attributes Illinois has to offer for families and businesses alike,’ Pritzker said in a statement. ‘Well, there’s no doubt that the world is taking note — especially with businesses like Google expanding in Chicago.’

“Google has not shared many details about what the interior will look like, how it plans to use the 1.3 million square feet, or whether it will still be called the Thompson Center.

“Miller is urging the developers to preserve other historic aspects, including Jahn’s palette of colors, and the spiral tile design at the atrium’s base, meant to resemble the ceiling of a state capitol dome.

“‘It’s a wonderful optical illusion,’ he said. ‘The building may not have been maintained well, but it’s a true work of art.’ (Rogal, Chicago Tribune, 12/13/23)

Read the full story at the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times

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