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Marina City 'Corncobs' Now Officially Chicago Landmarks

By Ted Cox | November 5, 2015 1:52pm | Updated on November 5, 2015 4:24pm
 The Commission on Chicago Landmarks gave landmark status to the Marina City towers.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks gave landmark status to the Marina City towers.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The Commission on Chicago Landmarks put up a couple of "corncobs" to be preserved Thursday, granting landmark status to Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City complex.

Affectionately known by many as the "corncobs," thanks to Goldberg's organic design — in marked contrast with the International School of his mentor Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose IBM Building is just down the Chicago River — Marina City is considered an "icon" of the city skyline.

RELATED: How Marina City Was Made

It's been drawn on for the album cover to Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," among many other uses, including a car-chase scene in the Steve McQueen thriller "The Hunter" that ended with a car plummeting into the river below. Daredevil Nik Wallenda walked across the Chicago River on a tightrope from Marina City to the Leo Burnett Building a year ago, before walking blindfolded between the two Marina City towers.

 The Daniel Burnham-designed former ComEd Building at 125 S. Clark St. is already getting a good scrubbing as part of an ongoing renovation.
The Daniel Burnham-designed former ComEd Building at 125 S. Clark St. is already getting a good scrubbing as part of an ongoing renovation.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

The Marina City complex was originally considered for landmark status in July and coasted through the process in a public hearing last month. It met no opposition on Thursday.

Matt Crawford, of the Department of Planning and Development, has called it "an icon of Chicago architecture and urban planning" and "the defining project" of Goldberg's career.

When built in the early and mid-'60s, Marina City was intended to halt flight to the suburbs, and to give residents a "city within a city" including self-contained stores, an office building, a theater (now the House of Blues) and even a bowling alley, as well as the namesake marina below. All aspects of the development were granted landmark status.

"I'm very happy to see the building designated as a landmark," said Chairman Rafael Leon.

Architecture aficionados and preservationists likewise cheered the move, especially after Goldberg's original Prentice Women's Hospital was granted preliminary landmark status and then cleared for demolition by the commission three years ago.

The commission also pushed along the process for granting landmark status to a Daniel Burnham-designed office building at 125 S. Clark St. The former home of Commonwealth Edison and, more recently, Chicago Public Schools, it now goes back to the current owners for consent. They've already said they'd welcome the change, and the tax breaks that go with it, as it continues to undergo a renovation.

Burnham, of course, is most famous for his comprehensive 1909 plan for the city, and for his adage: "Make no little plans."

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