181 West Madison in Chicago

Photo of 181 West Madison in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of 181 West Madison in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
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Photo of 181 West Madison in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of 181 West Madison in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

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181 West Madison
Formerly:The PaineWebber Tower

181 West Madison, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60602
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It's something of a mystery why 181 West Madison doesn't get more respect, publicity, and admiration. It had good height, a great design, a legendary architect, and excellent location.

Still, unless you live or work in the neighborhood, you've probably never seen it jutting into the sky like a broken glass stalagmite.

The basic design would work equally well in stone and glass. The building emphasizes height through tall narrow windows, vertical spandrels, and setbacks. But rather than fade into the sky, the finials are coated with brilliant nickel to draw the eye even higher and finish in a sparkle of light. It's a classic Art Moderne skyscraper design updated for the modern age.

An interesting note is the way the building's windows are designed. Though it appears that they are individual narrow slits, in reality the windows are much wider, but subdivided by the decorative vertical elements.

Quick Facts
  • Floor space: 1,000,000 square feet
  • April, 1990: Construction finished
  • July, 2001: This building was bought by Davis Companies for $239,000,000.
  • 2006: This building was bought by G.E. Asset Management for $294 million.
  • May, 2013: This building was sold to CBRE Global Investors for $300 million.
  • Developer: Miglin-Beitler Developments
  • This was the first building in Chicago designed by famed architect Cesar Pelli.
  • It is believed that this building's design is descended from Pelli's Norwest Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • The loggia entrance was inspired by the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence, Italy. It was even finished in Italian marble.
  • This building is connected by a skybridge to the building at 50 South LaSalle Street because at the time 181 was built, 50 South LaSalle was the headquarters of Northern Trust, and Northern Trust owned much of the land that Miglin-Beitler needed to build the 181 building.
  • The finials at the top of the building are nickel-plated in order to reflect sunlight and draw attention.
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  The Ufizzi Gallery lobby of this building houses two Frank Stella relief sculptures, one on the west wall and the other on the east wall, both inspired by chapters in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick": "Loomings" (Chapter 1, which begins with the famous "Call me Ishmael") and "Knights and Squires" (the title of both Chapter 26 and Chapter 27). Only three of Stella's 266 "Moby Dick" works reside in Chicago. The other one is ""The Town-Ho's Story with Postscript & the Gam," (three different chapters - 54, 25, 53), a sculpture in the lobby of the Ralph Metcalfe Federal Office Building.

Edmund McDevitt - Monday, December 8th, 2014 @ 10:58pm  


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