311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago

Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

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311 South Wacker Drive
Also known as:The Wedding Ring Building
Also known as:The White Castle Building

311 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60606
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311 South Wacker Drive is a worthy accompaniment to the Sears Tower next door. In its stature it mimics the Sears, and from certain angles, its flanking wings appear to be setbacks in the same manner as its neighbor. 311 South Wacker stands out, in part, because of its location. Aside from Sears, there are few nearby towers tall enough to compete with it. Another tower planned for this plot of land is still just a drawing, and as of this writing the space where it will go is a community park. Plans for other skyscrapers on nearby blocks are also on hold, and with no serious competitors to the south, this building dominates the landscape, marking the southern edge of the Loop skyscraper forest. While the Sears Tower is much taller, 311 South Wacker takes the same skyscraper formula and updates it. Instead of the Sears Tower’s forceful black glass squares, 311 South Wacker uses an octagonal main shaft clad in pink granite from Texas. The result is a smaller, more stylish presentation. Think of it as the cute girl next door to the big brute looking down on her. While the Sears may puff out its chest and light up its spires in festive colors, 311 South Wacker shows him up through simple elegance – a 70-foot-tall, 65-foot-wide barrel lit up in white at night, and surrounded by four smaller and nearly identical forms – like a central diamond surrounded by accent diamonds in an engagement ring.

Quick Facts
Statistics
  • Floor space: 1,300,000 square feet
Timeline
  • August, 2002: This building was bought by Walton Street Capital for $275,000,000.
Notes
  • Developer: Lincoln Property Company
  • Developer: Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association
  • This was formerly the location of an old warehouse converted into office lofts.
  • At the time of its completion, this was the fourth-tallest building in Chicago, and the 11th-tallest in the world.
  • According to a 1996 Chicago Tribune article, the floors inside the large illuminated barrel at the top are vacant, except for the 69th floor where there is a basketball hoop the building's maintenance crews use to blow off steam.
  • 1,500 flourescent tubes are used to light the top of the building at night. These lights are turned off at midnight to be less annoying to the neighbors, and are turned off even earlier when birds migrate.
  • This building was intended to have a twin 65-story tower next to it that was never built.
Did You Know?
  • At the time of its completion, this was the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world.
Look For
  • The five glass cylinders at the top. They are illuminated by 1,852 florescent rubes at night.
Quotations
  • "Overdone to the point of boorishness."

    -Architecture critic Paul Gapp, Chicago Tribune, 29 September 1996

Rate This Skyscraper
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311 South Wacker Drive in Chicago.  Photo by Dennis Rossow
Dennis Rossow
Your Thoughts

There are 10 comments.

  I've loved this building the moment I moved to the Chicago area fifteen years ago. The granite is beautiful, but not overpowering, due to the beautiful placement of windows around each side of the building. And at night, when driving in from a trip east, the light at the top means, "I'm home."

Dennis Rossow - Friday, September 2nd, 2011 @ 11:53am  

  The "crown" was inspired by the massing of the Tribune Tower.

Mario C. - Monday, July 20th, 2009 @ 6:34am  

  I used to criticize this building, because at the time I was 13 in 1999, I thought it looked bad, but now looking more at the design, I like the colors and the whole building with the crown. Even at night the crown amazes me with every season of lighting up at night.

Brent Kampert - Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 @ 10:09am  

  Position is what makes this building. Without its partnership with the Sears Tower, 311 would just be another forgettable piece of post-modern junk. The pairing, however, makes it attractive.

Clint - Sunday, January 20th, 2008 @ 2:09pm  

  All I can say is this: When I lived in Chicago I used to refer to this as the "White Castle building." I realize mine is the minority opinion here.

David Shmuel - Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 @ 11:06pm  

  I've always looked at this building in the skyline and wondered what it is. It sure looks like a castle to me :)

Andi - Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007 @ 11:28am  

  It is the wonder of the night sky in downtown Chicago. Some folks here call it "The White Castle Building".

C. Dalka - Thursday, March 15th, 2007 @ 7:34am  

  I think it makes chicago beutiful and it looks good when its christmas time and in front of the sears tower

joshua - Wednesday, December 13th, 2006 @ 11:01pm  

  I love this building. It is very interesting to look at! The brightly lit top at night is a very nice addition.

Kirby Cruz - Thursday, December 7th, 2006 @ 8:24pm  

  This is a great building, and this page gives some nice comparisons to the Sears, constantly towering over 311, which is the tallest building in the world to be known simply by its address. ABJ, Chicago

Adam J. - Sunday, April 23rd, 2006 @ 9:11pm  

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