Essential Architecture-  Chicago Loop North

Tribune Tower

architect

Raymond M. Hood and John Mead Howells

location

435 N. Michigan Ave.

date

1922-25

style

Art Deco Skyscraper Gothic 

construction

Stone cladding, steel frame

type

Office Building
 
 
 
 
  Statue of Nathan Hale
This design was the result of an international competition for "the most beautiful office building in the world," held in 1922 by the Chicago Tribune newspaper. The various competition entries proved extremely influential for the development of skyscraper architecture in the 1920s. The winning entry, with a crowning tower with flying buttresses, is derived from the design of the French cathedral of Rouen and gives the building its striking silhouette. The base of the building is studded with over 120 stones from famed sites and structures in all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries. They range from the Parthenon (Greece) and Taj Mahal (India) to Bunker Hill (Massachusetts) and Mark Twain's "Injun Joe Cave" (Missouri).
 
The Tribune Tower is a Gothic building located at 435 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. It is the home of the Chicago Tribune and Tribune Company. WGN Radio (720 kHz) also broadcasts from the building, with ground-level studios overlooking nearby Pioneer Court and Michigan Avenue. CNN's Chicago bureau is located in the building.

The Competition
In 1922, the Chicago Tribune hosted an international design competition for its new headquarters and offered a $50,000 prize for "the most beautiful and eye-catching building in the world". The competition worked brilliantly as a publicity stunt, and the resulting entries still reveal a unique turning point in American architectural history. More than 260 entries were received.

The entry that many perceived as the best—a radically simplified tower by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen—took second place. Saarinen's tower, which anticipated the coming impact of stripped-down modernism on building form, was preferred by critics like Louis Sullivan, and was a strong influence on the next generation of skyscrapers — including Raymond Hood's own subsequent work on the McGraw-Hill Building and Rockefeller Center. The 1929 Gulf Building in Houston, Texas, designed by architects Alfred C. Finn, Kenneth Franzheim, and J. E. R. Carpenter, is a full realization of that Saarinen design. César Pelli's 181 West Madison Street Building in Chicago is also thought to be inspired by Saarinen's design.

Other Tribune tower entries by figures like Walter Gropius, Bertram Goodhue, Bruno Taut, and Adolf Loos remain intriguing suggestions of what might have been, but perhaps not as intriguing as the one surmounted by Rushmore-like head of an American Indian. These entries have been collected in The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition : Skyscraper Design and Cultural Change in the 1920s by Katherine Solomonson and Richard A. Etlin, 2001. In 1980 a number of architects including Robert A. M. Stern and Bruce Abbey jokingly submitted "late entries."

The Building
The winner was a neo-Gothic design by New York architects Howells & Hood—John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood—with buttresses near the top. This was an established design tactic, with a Gothic-skyscraper precedent in Cass Gilbert's Woolworth Building of 1913. As was the case with most of Hood's projects, the sculptures and decorations were executed by the American artist Rene Paul Chambellan.

Construction on the actual Tribune Tower was completed in 1925 and reached a height of 141 meters (462 ft) above ground. The buttresses surrounding the peak of the tower are especially telling when the tower is lit at night.

The tower features carved images of Robin Hood (Hood) and a howling dog (Howells) near the main entrance to commemorate the architects. Prior to the building of the Tribune Tower, correspondents for the Chicago Tribune brought back rocks and bricks from a variety of historically important sites throughout the world at the request of Colonel McCormick. Many of these reliefs have been incorporated into the lowest levels of the building and are labeled with their location of origin. Stones included in the wall are from such sites as the Trondheim Cathedral, Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, the Great Pyramid, The Alamo, Notre-Dame, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall among others. In all, there are 136 fragments in the building. More recently a rock returned from the moon was displayed in a window in the Tribune giftstore (it could not be added to the wall as NASA owns all moon rocks, and it is merely on loan to the Tribune), and a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center has been added to the wall.

On April 11, 2006 the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum opened, occupying two stories of the building, including the previous location of high-end gift store Hammacher-Schlemmer.

Rene Paul Chambellan contributed his sculpture talents to the buildings ornamentation, gargoyles and the famous Aesops' Screen over the main entrance doors. Rene Chambellan worked on other projects with Raymond Hood including the American Radiator Building and Rockefeller Center in New York City, also providing all of the modeling work for that project. Also, among the gargoyles on the Tribune Tower is one of a frog. That piece was created by Rene Chambellan to represent himself jokingly as he is of French ancestry.

Tribune Tower in popular culture
On the November 21st and November 28th, 2007 episodes of CSI: NY historical pieces stolen from the building (The Alamo, etc...) led the character played by Gary Sinise to his hometown of Chicago. Upon further investigation of the man stalking him Sinise's character Mac Taylor found a dead body in an office of an unused floor in the building. All shots for this episode were filmed on location in Chicago with Sinise joined for some scenes by co-star Eddie Cahill.
  Losing entries
 
 
  Eliel Saarinen entry, perspective, from Chicago Tribune, The International Competition for a New Administration Building for the Chicago Tribune, MCMXXII (Chicago, 1923).
 
  Left- W. Gropius and A. Meyer entry, perspective, from Chicago Tribune, The International Competition for a New Administration Building for the Chicago Tribune, MCMXXII (Chicago, 1923).
  Middle- B. Bijvoet and J. Duiker entry, perspective, from Chicago Tribune, The International Competition for a New Administration Building for the Chicago Tribune, MCMXXII (Chicago, 1923).
  Right- A. Loos entry, elevation, from Chicago Tribune, The International Competition for a New Administration Building for the Chicago Tribune, MCMXXII (Chicago, 1923).

links

With special thanks to the City of Chicago website, www.egov.cityofchicago.org , for much of the info on this page.
Photos copyright City of Chicago.
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