The Aon Center in Chicago

Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of The Aon Center in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

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The Aon Center
Formerly:Amoco Building
Formerly:Standard Oil Building

200 East Randolph Street, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60601
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Well known in Chicagoland, but not so well known elsewhere, the Aon Center is the quiet, dignified supertall in the Chicago skyline. It lacks the flashy spires of Sears and Hancock, and instead goes for vertical stripes to add extra visual height to its already impressive stature.
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From a distance, the building feels like another boring grey 1970's stone block. But to really appreciate the Aon Center, you have to walk right up to it and crane your neck to see the top. Fortunately, this is possible thanks to a sunken plaza in front of the building with some rather extensive fountain work. This creates an area that is a pleasure for people on hot summer days, while at the same time protects the building from would-be truck bombers.
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Height and location give the Aon Center's tenants remarkable views in all directions. People facing south look over Grant Park; people with west-facing windows can look at The Loop; people with eastern exposures are treated to Lake Michigan sunrises and boating activities; and people on the northern face get to look up the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago coastline.
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But the news hasn't always been bright for the Aon Center. In fact, it has been routinely maligned in the print media. At first, critics called the building's design bland and uninspired. Later, things started going wrong with the building. Most famously, just after the building was completed, its famed marble facade began to buckle. Stainless steel straps were wrapped around the building to keep any large chunks from falling off. It was all replaced with white granite at a cost of $60,000,000.00 -- half what it cost to build the tower in the first place. That left the owners with 5,900 tons of unwanted marble. Some was turned into trinkets like paperweights. Some was donated to a company that makes trophies. A lot was used in landscaping at Governors State University, and at Amoco facilities across the nation.

Quick Facts
Statistics
  • Stories above ground: 83
  • Stories below ground: 5
  • Rentable floor space: 2,700,000
Timeline
  • 1972: Construction completed.
  • 1973: The Sears Tower surpasseed this building as the tallest building in Chicago.
  • 1974: A slab of the marble facade came off the building and plunged through the roof of the Prudential Center Annex.
  • 1989-1992: All 43,000 marble panels comprising the building's facade were replaced with granite from North Carolina. The marble panels were buckling and coming loose because of the harsh Chicago winters. It cost between $60- and $80,000,000 to replace all the stone.
  • November, 1991: A routine inspection found that two steel columns in the building's lobby had to be reinforced. The Chicago Tribune reported that although building officials say there is no danger, additional steel plates are welded to the columns in question.
  • 1998: This building was sold. The exact price was never made public, but estimated to be between $430,000,000 and $440,000,000.
  • January 1, 2001: The building's name was changed to Aon Center.
  • May, 2003 : The Aon Center was sold for $465,000,000.00.
  • March, 2007: A plan emerged to convert the top 13 stories of this tower to residential apartments or condominiums.
  • September, 2010: This building was named #20 on Chicago Magazine's list of the Top 40 Buildings in Chicago.
  • July, 2015: This building was bought by Piedmont Office Realty Trust for $712 million.
Notes
  • At the time of its completion, this was the tallest building in Chicago.
  • At the time of its completion, this was the fourth-tallest building in the world.
  • The building's original marble facade was from Carrara, the same Italian quarry used by Michaelangelo for his masterpiece "David."
  • This building is connected to the city's underground pedestrian tunnel system.
  • This was one of the filming locations for the 2011 movie Transformers 3.
Did You Know?
  • The sculpture made up of hundreds of rods sticking out of the ground is called "Untitled Sounding Sculpture" and was made by Harra Bertoia. The rods are 19 feet tall and make an especially eerie sound when the wind blows through them at night.
Tourist Tips
  • The sunken plaza is a great place to cool off in the Summer when the fountain is on. And if it's off there might be a book fair or some other event happening worth checking out.
Look For
  • Bunnies. There are a number of rabbits who make their homes in the decorative planters on the Aon Center grounds. They are most visible when they come out at night to eat in peace.
Quotations
  • "...the worst thing that has happened to Chicago's skyline in the last 30 years."

    -Paul Gapp, Chicago Tribune, 1974

Rate This Skyscraper
method='post' action='/Building.php?ID=625#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 20 comments.

  AON is one of the best buildings in Chicago. Many buildings create this outstanding skyline, but I love the wtc resemblance and like most everyone else, II think the lighted skyline at night is awesome.

Jean Caldwell - Monday, October 3rd, 2016 @ 8:15pm  

  id give it 4 stars cause its just so plain i mean look at it but i do like it i don`t know why i really like it cause it has lights at night

bob cales - Monday, March 9th, 2015 @ 2:46pm  

  Re " When this building was redone they trashed the Bertoia fountain. What is left is heartbreaking to one who loved the original.Roger Marz - Monday, May 26th, 2008 @ 6:34pm".......Roger, would you happen to know what happened to the parts of Bertoia's "Sounding Sculpture" that were removed during the redesign project? If not, would you have any idea who might know? Would love to track the pieces down! Thanks.

JD - Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 @ 5:59pm  

  I also worked on the building in the early 70s. A few pieces of marble actually fell off the side during construction. One of those pieces smashed another workman's brand-new Buick 225. Although each piece of marble did have wires attached to the ends, they did not hold the marble to the building. The marble was also not stacked like bricks. Each piece was self supported and attached to the building with brackets. I really enjoyed working there. And that's where I met my wife as she worked for Standard Oil on the 31st floor. It seemed everyone I worked with kept telling me to check out the blonde on 31, so I did.

Charlie - Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 @ 9:01pm  

  When I was younger I remember looking out from the observation floor of the Prudential building (tallest building in the city @ that time) and not even imagine,15 years later I would be on the roof of The Standard Oil Building (It will always be SOB to me) looking down on the Prudential.I was there two years (construction) and while watching the marble guys set the stone with the little wires, thinking, 'that's all that holds the marble?It's sister building in Canada had the same problem.

"Up on the Plaza" - Friday, August 10th, 2012 @ 6:00pm  

  The building's stone facade provides such contrast against the other buildings that as Chicago skyline grows, it becomes more prevalent, providing three dimensional form. Edward Durell Stone's design is timeless- classic-eclectic. It compliments all the other buildings with its suttle sophistication.Roberto Hugo

Roberto - Friday, September 25th, 2009 @ 12:18pm  

  The simple fact that this building is clad in stone, and not aluminum is a staggering thought. It is timeless, and looks almost as good as when it was white, but most dont notice it is grey now. The lobby is dated, but it is a building that doesn't sell out to TV and radio stations by potting annteneas on top. it is not the ugly black and bronze building and kust looks fierce. Condos on the the top 13 floors would have a huge price do to the location and view. I doesn't hype a Skydeck, thus people just walk on by.

Wes - Sunday, July 5th, 2009 @ 9:13pm  

  I love this bldg, Simple, elegant design. I see little similarity (other than square footprint) to WTC. Exterior cladding, window design are all different from WTC, I only wish this structure was another 20-30 stories taller.

dallred - Friday, June 26th, 2009 @ 1:24pm  

  Simplicity and Grand

Michael Scinico - Thursday, April 30th, 2009 @ 2:00pm  

  Great Building!!! The undesclosed tennant in the building is actually 2 stories under the building, AT&T maintains the "Lakeshore" Central Office under the building serving many customers east of Michigan Ave. Edward Durell Stone also designed Tupperware's International Headquarters on Orange Blossom Trail in Kissimmee FL next door to Gatorland. If you have seen both you will see some familiarity in the decor of engraving on the outside of Tupperware's building and The ceilings of Aon Center.

Sam Corcione - Saturday, January 17th, 2009 @ 6:13pm  

  One of the best in Chicago after the Hancock.

Northshore Process Service - Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 @ 4:57pm  

  When this building was redone they trashed the Bertoia fountain. What is left is heartbreaking to one who loved the original.

Roger Marz - Monday, May 26th, 2008 @ 6:34pm  

  i loved this building. the design is simplicity itself. the plain white facade and the lights at night are just beautiful. the location on the skyline is genius. there is no chicago without the Aon center.

Dr. Q - Monday, October 29th, 2007 @ 2:53pm  

  One of the best in the US behind the Hancock. Big Stan really deserves some credit.

William Hopkins - Friday, April 27th, 2007 @ 10:06pm  

  The Aon Center is a building you have to love to hate. its such a cold building, but has a very nice plaza at the base.

kirby cruz - Thursday, December 7th, 2006 @ 8:37pm  

  My feeling for this building has nothing to do with the WTC, it has to do with how the building soars. In my opinion no building in Chicago feels taller when looking at it from the base then this one. With no setbacks or tapers, the entire height of the building is viewable from the great plaza at the base.

Jeff Kemp - Thursday, June 22nd, 2006 @ 6:34am  

  I think some people get caught up with this building's apparent similarity to the WTC. (COMPLETELY different structural system, thank God.) Don't let emotion get in the way of the fact that this building has never found an audience; perhaps because it has no human reference (you just get dwarfed by the building, not invited or embraced.) Functionally, it does everything right; but I don't think anyone will ever love this building, like you do the Marquette or the Field building (now the LaSalle Bank bldg) or the BOT. (And don't get me wrong: I think the UBS and the new Hyatt are both great additions. Old ain't necessarily better.) But the AON Center just BORES me.

Dean Skora - Thursday, April 20th, 2006 @ 2:41pm  

  i think it is a wonderful tower and also the closest thing we can manage to one of the twin towers. This building would be better if it had a twin and it will also honor the twin towers in new york.It gives chicago a much better skyline helping the sears tower and and the Hancock tower.

Mario - Monday, August 29th, 2005 @ 10:26pm  

  I also gave this 70's look 5 stars. the Chicago skyline has changed over the years and this building with the other 2 Sears offsets and Hancock long taper give the Aon a difinate contrast. Good stuff !

william lomasney - Tuesday, April 19th, 2005 @ 9:58pm  

  I really like this building even though I admit it is plain. I like it for its height, facade, and lighting at night. The plainnless is ok because this building helps to create balance in the Chicago skyline. Its location is also perfect relative to the locations of Sears and Hancock. Also worth noting is that this building has the closest resemblence to a WTC tower. I think it would be cool if they put another AON center right next to it to pay tribute to the WTC center. However, I am not sure how NYC would feel about this.

Charlie Shellenberger - Wednesday, March 16th, 2005 @ 9:27am  

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