333 South Wabash in Chicago

Photo of 333 South Wabash in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 333 South Wabash in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of 333 South Wabash in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 333 South Wabash in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 333 South Wabash in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

Chicago, Illinois

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333 South Wabash
Formerly:CNA Plaza
Formerly:Continental Center III

333 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60604
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One of the most common questions we get around here is, "Hey! What's that big red building in the middle of the Chicago skyline?" Well, the answer is 333 South Wabash.

It's not a massive structure by Chicago standards -- just 44 stories. But its position on Wabash Avenue, set back just one block from Michigan Avenue and the vast greenspace of Grant Park, makes it stand out like a fire alarm in the skyline.

The people who run 333 South Wabash apparently have a sense of humor about their building that is uncommon in Chicago. During a 2004 renovation of the lobby the entrances were hard to find for pedestrians. So the entrances were clearly marked with "Enter Here" while other portions of the black plywood wall were marked with a yellow dashed outline of a person and the legend "Don't enter here. You'll get splinters."

In spite of the garish color, 333 South Wabash isn't a building that attracts a lot of attention. Like a beauty queen it just stands there among the other contestants beaming and waving. But in 1999 the story was different. A shard of glass fell from a 29th floor window and killed a woman on the other side of Wabash Avenue. In the ensuing investigation it was revealed that the window had been cracked for months and that the building had a history of cracking windows for more than 20 years. The glass used in the building couldn't cope with the level of thermal expansion it experienced and at the time the victim was impaled by the glass, more than 40 windows were cracked. The building's owner paid a huge fine to the city, settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family, and replaced all 3,000 windows in the building.

As odd as the red color is, it's not the old colored skyscraper in Chicago. There is a bright blue skyscraper on LaSalle Street, but because it's hemmed in buy other buildings, most people don't notice it.

Quick Facts
  • Rentable floor space: 1,100,000 square feet
  • June 28, 1994: A piece of glass fell from a window and injured Scott Cowan on the sidewalk below.
  • October 8, 1999: A piece of glass fell from a window and killed Ana Flores on the sidewalk across the street.
  • December 8, 2007: Giant "CNA" logos were added to the top of this building.
  • Vanity address: CNA Plaza, Chicago, Illinois 60685
Rate This Skyscraper
method='post' action='/Building.php?ID=1083#Rate'>Current rating:50% 70%  name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Praise' class='Plain'> name='Rating' id='Rating' value='Raze' class='Plain'>
Your Thoughts

There are 12 comments.

  I think this building adds to the Chicago skyline. It would be unremarkable if not red, but it is red, so it stands out.

Summer - Sunday, September 4th, 2016 @ 12:05pm  

  We went to Chicago yesterday and this building was the only thing my family couldn't tell me about. This was very helpful. Also painting buildings bright colors is a great idea for publicity. I wish my school was bright green. Thanks!

Wakelyn H. - Saturday, April 11th, 2015 @ 7:05am  

  This building is an ugly eyesore. What a huge mistake; like so many buildings in the city of Chicago. Then to read the building itself was unsafe justs adds more reason to give it no stars.

Tm - Thursday, June 20th, 2013 @ 7:47am  

  I just recently spotted it and it is outstanding and not bland, as in grey dark or mirrored. I love it.

Jim Bradshaw - Friday, March 22nd, 2013 @ 9:35pm  

  I love this bright spot of color in the skyline, but if this building was any other color it would be totally unremarkable.

Eva - Friday, November 13th, 2009 @ 9:37am  

  This is a great building for its color. If you are from Chicago, you love to hate the CNA building... though they didnt need the added ''CNA'' signs on the north and south faces of the building...anyone dealing with the CNA building knows its 'the bright red building.'

Kirby Cruz - Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 @ 6:52pm  

  I will loathe the day when rational design is completely supplanted by "blobitechture".

g3 - Thursday, April 16th, 2009 @ 11:30am  

  Sorry, none of these 1970s structures should be advertised by painting them in bright colors. They are harsh and unfriendly even though supremely functional, and to their credit do not hide their structure.

Gary Braasch - Saturday, March 14th, 2009 @ 6:27pm  

  I think the building looks great. I was in the building in 1997 for the 100 year anniversary weekend (HGB Alexander was my great-grandfather) and I was very impressed.

I think it looks great. - Thursday, February 19th, 2009 @ 12:31am  

  I like this building, it's red color makes the building stand out from all of the other different buildings in the skyline, also in the International Style.

Brent Kampert - Friday, November 7th, 2008 @ 12:49pm