CITY HALL — The iconic twin skyscrapers at Marina City are set to be granted preliminary landmark status this week.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks will take up the Marina City towers at its meeting on Thursday, where preliminary status for the skyscrapers is at the top of the agenda.
"We're really excited that it's up for landmark designation," said Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago. "We really think this is a long time coming and very much deserving."
Built in the '60s, the towers were designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg and, with their organic corncob form, became immediate icons on the city skyline to rival the more Spartan International School style of Mies van der Rohe.
With their distinctive structure of apartments and condos rising above a garage on the lower floors, they were used in a handful of Hollywood movies shot in Chicago, as well as for the cover image on Wilco's 2002 album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."
According to Miller, Goldberg's use of concrete, poured in floors shaped like "petals" and stacked on top of each other like records on an old-style turntable, was also innovative, as was the attempt to place everything from a marina to shops and a theater (now the House of Blues) to an office building (now a hotel) in the same basic complex.
"It really was sort of a compact city in itself," Miller said.
A Department of Planning and Development report on Marina City found it meets several of the criteria for landmark status, including being "exemplary architecture" and the "work of a significant architect." The report called Marina City "an icon of Chicago architecture and urban planning."
Daredevil Nik Wallenda crossed the Chicago River on a tightrope from Marina City to the Burnett Building in November, immediately following that with a blindfolded walk between the two Marina City towers.
Three years ago, the landmarks commission granted preliminary landmark status for Goldberg's original Prentice Women's Hospital before ultimately rejecting it, clearing the way for the hospital's demolition a year later.
Marina City, however, should get a more respectful hearing before the commission on Thursday.
Miller said the debate over Prentice "brought a whole new awareness" for Goldberg's work and its need to be preserved. His River City complex and the Hilliard Homes public-housing project on Cermak Road might eventually follow as landmarks.
"Buildings have to pass the test of time, and great buildings do that," Miller said. He added that buildings are typically updated at 30 or 35 years old, and might need to have their original design touches preserved at that point, but 50 years is more standard for a distinctive piece of architecture to be acknowledged as a "landmark."
"I think you need that reflection to sort of re-evaluate how the building functions," he said. Marina City, however, long ago passed the test of time, Miller added.
The preliminary recommendation is an early step for Marina City to continue on the landmarks process.
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