Buckingham Fountain, I'm not a fan of these massive undifferentiated carpets. What might be distinctive in smaller implementations, or as a composite in a more detailed general design, becomes numbingly generic when slathered across a huge surface like ketchup on a bad burger. It may be cheaper to maintain, but it's just plain lazy. At the Miesian Illinois Center, the endless herringbone is like wearing sneakers with black tie. I know it's done, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea.
Which is too bad, because in my mind, the upper plaza at Illinois Center is one of Chicago's unrealized gems. It's been described as cramped and windswept, but I don't find it cramped at all, nor, whenever I visit, especially windswept. It may not be the greatest place to be on a freezing winter day, but the same could be said for just about any downtown plaza under those conditions. On a warmer day, and especially at night, the way you see the buildings slide past each other as you traverse the plaza is quite beautiful.
That raised plaza, however, has now become the bridge to the massive residential development to the east. Until you get to the sunken park of Lake Shore East, it's all on the same level of the Illinois Center plaza.
Two things are missing to make the plaza a real asset. First off, the kind of amenities that make a plaza a destination. Changing this needn't be an ordeal A few kiosks, and maybe a discreet dumbwaiter structure that would allow the broad expanse overlooking the Chicago river . . .
The second is a way to end Illinois Center's isolation from the Mag Mile, a link to draw up people from Michigan Avenue. In 2008, the Chicago Loop Alliance and the Urban Land Institute Chicago chapter floating a proposal for creating a Chicago equivalent of Rome's Spanish Steps to mediate between Michigan Avenue and the plaza.
To me the most intriguing possibility lies in a small gap between the buildings on Michigan Avenue . . .