“Every day, some 120,000 rail travelers pass through Chicago’s Union Station, which has been a city icon as well as a major transit hub for nearly a century.
“Originally envisioned by architect Daniel Burnham, who was director of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, it was designed by his successor firm, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, whose Wrigley Building, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and the Field Museum of Natural History define the city’s skyline.
“The Indiana limestone monolith, which stands prominently on the west side of the Chicago River and serves as Amtrak’s Midwest flagship, has undergone a number of restorations and renovations throughout its history.
“The latest—the $22-million restoration of its barrel-vaulted 219-foot-long skylight, which soars 115 feet over its Great Hall—was undertaken by the Windy City-based firm of Goettsch Partners, which has worked on various projects at the Amtrak-owned terminal over the last decade.
“The original cast-iron skylight, the defining feature of the station’s ornate Beaux-Arts Great Hall, had deteriorated over time for a number of reasons, including design flaws that fostered inadequate drainage that produced leaks that stained and damaged surrounding interior architectural elements and sculptural artwork.”
“After mulling several options, Koroski and his team—consulting partner Larry Weldon, AIA, senior consultant Randy Chapple, AIA, SE, CSI, and associate Andrew Fox—decided not only to restore the original skylight but also to design an energy-efficient, modern skylight five feet above it as an insulating protective cover.
“‘We wanted a solution that would last for the next 100 years,’ Koroski says. ‘And we wanted to make the Great Hall, which is where passengers wait for trains, a brighter, more inviting space.’
“Determining the original color of the ceiling’s ornate plasterwork also proved problematic. ‘The paint analysis showed a dark color that disagreed with our research,” he says. “While we were deciding what to do, we went on to other things, and in that time, the sunlight revealed the original color. We realized that successive layers of paint had chemically altered the original. There was a simple finish—there was only one paint and one glaze, but it required a tremendous effort to replicate the density and shadowing of the glaze coat.’
“Restoring the station’s pair of Night and Day statues to their golden glory was another key part of the project. Day, who is holding a rooster, and Night, who is cradling an owl, were designed by sculptor by Henry Hering and have been in the station since its opening in 1925.” (Ruhling, 5/26/20)