Chicago Architecture Info

The Crain Communications Building

150 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Map data © OpenStreetMap

Facts

Formerly
  • 150 North Michigan Avenue
  • The Smurfit-Stone Building
  • The Stone Container Building
  • The Associates Center
Also known as The diamond building
Address 150 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60601
Neighborhood The Loop
Built 1983-1984
Architecture firm A. Epstein and Sons
Type
  • Office
  • Retail
  • Skyscraper
Floors 41
Height 575 feet
Rentable floor space 625,205 square feet

Notes

  • This was the first building in Chicago to change its roof illumination seasonally. It no longer does so.
  • The building that used to be on this site was the John Crerar Library. The 14-story building was erected in 1920 and designed by Holabird and Roche.
  • One of the bogus "facts" sometimes presented by Chicago tour guides is that this building's sloping roof was designed to keep it's shadow from falling on a beach. This is incorrect. There isn't a beach anywhere near this building. There was a controversy over a building on Lake Shore Drive casting a shadow on the Ohio Street Beach in 2006, but that building was erected anyway with no alterations to its plan.
  • The top five floors of this building are empty and are not included in its official floor count.
  • Three years after its completion, this building played a central role in the film Adventures In Babysitting.

Timeline

1987 This building's diamond-shaped roof was outlined in 238 lights for the first time.
2010 This building's name was changed from Smurfit-Stone Building to 150 North Michigan Avenue.
2011 Smurfit-Stone moved out of this building after being bought by a company in Georgia.
2012 The building name was changed to The Crain Communications Building.

Narrative

One of Chicago's signature skyscrapers, what this building lacks in height, it more than makes up for in style. Its gleaming white exterior is accented with dark pinstripes of windows. Its orientation embraces Lake Michigan just a few hundred yards away, while at the same time it's characteristic slanted roof mimics, mocks, or yearns to be part of the sailboat crowd in the nearby Chicago Harbor.

The Citicorp Center in New York and other skyscrapers have experimented with slanted roofs. What makes this building's version special is the orientation of its slant. The architects didn't merely take a square and cut a wedge out of it like a children's block. They cut it on an angle, using a simple subtractive motion to create a diamond shape in the sky. Closer examination reveals that it isn't even a simple diamond, but rather two similar, but not identical, triangles.

Visually, this building is still not done inventing itself. It is growing with a leading angle, like a massive lily sprouting on the lakeshore.

Some fail to see the beauty and whimsy intrinsic to this building. Instead, they see it as an affront to the classic Chicago architecture on Michigan Avenue. But if not for the buildings that stand out, would not the Avenue's marble cliff seem that much more ordinary and underappreciated?