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Aon Center makeover treats big banal skyscraper with respect

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BP Amoco is not greener than me
Aon building

The Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin reports:

Now Aon’s owner, the New York-based firm of 601W Cos., wants to take advantage of the neighborhood’s newfound popularity with a new observatory that would compete with existing ones at Willis Tower and 875 N. Michigan. But there’s no room inside Aon for an elevator leading to the aerie, so 601W charged Chicago architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz with putting one on the outside.

Crafted by principal Martin Wolf, SCB’s plan starts with a wedge-shaped, metal-and-glass entry pavilion that would rise on the southeast corner of Aon Center’s plaza — an appropriately simple form for this simple building. Descending on escalators to below-street passageways, visitors would wend their way to the elevator tower. City officials wisely insisted that the tower rise on the building’s northwest corner (and not on the southeast corner, as originally planned) so it would not disturb the clean lines of Aon’s park-facing side.

If you’re an acrophobe, the high-speed double-deck elevators that shoot up and down the tower won’t be for you. But for those who get a kick out of seeing a city from on high, the elevators could be the ultimate version of those glass-covered cabs that enlivened the hotels of the late Atlanta architect and developer John Portman. Portman’s genius was to make an elevator ride an event, not just a trip in a box.

While the elevator tower will be visible from Michigan Avenue, it promises to be a light and lacy presence rather than a mechanical eyesore. It might even be exciting at night as the cabs of its double-deck elevators create trails of light like comet tails, said Phil Hettema of Pasadena, Calif., the designer of the still-unnamed observatory and the spaces leading to it. The two-level observatory would occupy space above the building’s office floors that was originally devoted to cooling towers.

For those willing to pay more than the price of admission, an internal elevator would transport them from the observatory to the thrill ride, a mechanical-lift contraption called the Sky Summit. Its steel arms would lift a glass-sheathed cab with room for about 20 people nearly 30 feet above the roof, then lower the cab over Aon’s edge, holding it there for about 30 seconds as the floor changed from opaque to transparent to reveal views of Millennium Park far below. Next, the cab would bring everybody back to Aon’s rooftop, presumably glad to be alive. The engineers assure me it’s a tried-and-true system. (Pass the Valium.)

(click here to continue reading Aon Center makeover treats big banal skyscraper with respect. But about that thrill ride … – Chicago Tribune.)

I’m looking forward to riding this.

Aon Infrared
Aon Infrared

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Arts,Chicago-esque

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