Sunday, May 06, 2012

Inland Steel - Jewel Box of the Loop - Goes to Seed: popup sculpture Garden Alterpolitan

The main floor retail space of the Walter Netsch/Bruce Grahm/SOM Inland Steel Building went green - literally - last week.
photograph: Chicago Loop Alliance (click images for larger view)
As reported by Treehugger, volunteers laid down 3,800 square feet of sod and installed plants and 27 sculptures to create Alterpolitan: An Indoor Sculpture Garden, a collaboration between Noisivelvet, Art Advisory LTD and Turnstone for one of the Chicago Loop Alliance's more than a dozen current installations in its popular Pop-Up art projects.  Check out a video of the laying down of the sod here.
By this past Saturday, however, the lawn seemed to have already entered its brown phase.  I wasn't able to get inside, but the gallery is open weekdays, 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. for the next couple weeks, "a social space where pedestrians can enjoy impromptu conversations and an artful reprieve from Chicago's bustling downtown."   You can see all the sculptures and learn who made them at Jyoti Srivastava's indispensable Public Art in Chicago website here.

You can also check out Richard Lippold's Radiant One, commissioned by Inland Steel in 1957 for their building's lobby.
It's also a chance to visit one of the most iconic and beautiful buildings in Chicago, the Jewel Box of the Loop.  When the Inland Steel was  completed in 1958, it was the first new skyscraper to be constructed in the Loop since the Great Depression.  It's brushed steel finish showcased the product of the company making the building it's home, and it's innovative design supported the structure on just 14 columns that stand outside of the curtain wall, leaving the interiors completely unobstructed. The floors cantilever out dramatically at the north and south ends, and the green-tinted windows, an early form of anti-heat-gain technology that replaced Netsch's original design of a dual-pane system, give the Inland Steel a visual texture unique in Chicago architecture.  The detached service core is, itself, a spectacular steel-clad tower.
At the time of its construction, Inland Steel was the tallest thing around.  Although it had one less floor, it was sixty feet taller than the 1905 Majestic Theater Building next door, and a hundred feet taller than Burnham's 1903 First National Bank Building across from it on Dearborn.  Over time, the great view from the south captured in this classic Ezra Stoller photograph was obliterated by the replacement of the two-story structure to the south with SOM's rather dreadful 33 West Monroe.  By that time, however, another open view was created to the west when the First National Bank was demolished and replaced by the huge plaza of what is now Chase Tower.
In 2005, another open view of Inland Steel emerged, this time to the North, when the 1902 building Holabird and Roche designed for the Chicago Tribune was demolished to create a 16,000 square foot plaza for DeStefano Partners' One South Dearborn.  And while the turf at Alterpolitan may be turning a bit brown, the plaza to the north, designed by Daniel Weinbach and Partners,  holds one of my favorite spots in Chicago, a grove of sugar maples that have matured into a forest canopy respite from the proud, insistent towers.

1 comment:

Esther said...

After a few days, indoor grass really smells bad. I once worke dinthe Merchandise Mart, and a showroom paved their space with sod for NeoCon. It looked cool and after the show got stinky - big time.