Underground passageways


The Trib recycles an article about the underground city. Still on my list of fun things to do one day.

Full size map here, for the moment at least.

Chicago Tribune | Stylish shortcuts
Convenience meets beauty on these internal streets -- many of them well-kept secrets ...interior arcades, corridors, lobbies and other passageways that slice through buildings downtown, offering pedestrians a convenient and beautiful alternative to cutting wind, rain or slush.

Many are a well-kept secret. With a blast of frigid air on the way, it's time to spread the word about them.

You've probably sampled the Beaux-Arts elegance of the main aisle through Marshall Field & Co.'s State Street store. Or maybe you've eyed the classical grandeur of the arcade through the Cook County Building and City Hall.

But how about the Art Deco splendor of the shortcut through the former Field Building, at 135 S. LaSalle St.?

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers would have felt at home dancing amid its fluted columns, mirrored bridges and a bronze elevator indicator that presents a miniature version of the building's sleek, setback silhouette. For some, though, the shortcut's elegance inspires wardrobe anxiety.

"I need a ball gown to walk through," jokes Alice Sinkevitch, editor of the American Institute of Architects' Guide to Chicago.

According to my informal survey, there are at least 30 of these aboveground cut throughs. I am not counting downtown's pedway tunnels, a style-challenged nether-world that is often difficult to navigate.

The City is also planning to upgrade the pedways, make it more ped friendly.

Chicago's pedway system can be astonishingly convenient -- and astonishingly confusing. The system largely consists of tunnels that cover 44 blocks indowntown Chicago, though it also includes some aboveground passageways....Recognizing that problem, the Chicago Department of Transportation commissioned DLK Civic Design of Chicago to shape new signs and maps for the system. The purple and yellow signs, which have a traditional look comparable to the historic streetlights and other "street furniture" on State Street, will be installed in the summer or fall, according to CDOT spokesman Brian Steele.

DLK shaped the signs in conjunction with consultant Carol Naughton + Associates, of Chicago. Most of the signs will be mounted on the walls of pedway tunnels, according to DLK's marketing director Charles Crump. The signs will identify the points of the compass, the name and street-grid location of streets above the tunnel, as well as nearby cultural attractions. Other signs will be embedded in the floors of tunnels at the Chicago Transit Authority's Red and Blue Line stations, Crump said.

Maps of the pedway will be placed at about two dozen locations, along with three-fold paper maps of the pedway that people can take with them. City officials also plan much-needed aboveground signs identifying entrances to the pedway. They are to go in building elevator lobbies and on exterior walls.

List of Blair Kamin's top 5 passageways below the fold

. 135 S. LaSalle St. (originally the Field Building, also known as the LaSalle Bank Building), Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, 1934 -- It's the head of the cut-through class, hands down. The miracle is that the building went up during the depths of the Great Depression. Then again, its patrons, the Field family, had pockets as deep as coal mines. Their signature is still present in the back-to-back F's that remain in the shortcut's terrazzo floor.

Running east-west from Clark Street to LaSalle, the passageway provides a convenient, weather-protected link between the LaSalle Street financial district and the heart of the Loop, including the Federal Center. It is at once a visual feast and impeccably restrained.

Signature Art Deco zigzags animate everything from the fluted columns that line the corridor to the outlines of the clocks accenting the bridges that join the north and south balconies.

The bridges' mirrored undersides make them appear to defy gravity, anticipating the weightless look of postwar steel-and-glass modernism.

The highlight, just off the passageway, can be glimpsed behind the original, semicircular information desk. There, the architects combined the elevator indicator and a mailbox into a bronze relief that brilliantly echoes the building's skyline contours.

Downstairs, you find a smart Art Deco arcade lined with shops and a cafeteria.

And there's one other thing to look for: A plaque on the passageway's west side commemorates the life and death of the building that was demolished to make way for the Field Building: William Le Baron Jenney's Home Insurance Office Building of 1884-85, often referred to as the first skyscraper.

2. Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark St., and Chicago City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., 1911, Holabird & Roche -- Befitting the center of Chicago's and Cook County's political universe, the shortcuts through these interconnected, back-to-back buildings form a grand Roman stage set. All that's missing are statues of Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cook County Board President John Stroger in togas.

The vaulted ceilings, with their glistening stone and intricate mosaic tile, are just the beginning. The exquisitely detailed building directories have Roman letters that pretentiously turn U's into V's. "COOK COUNTY COURTHOUSE" comes out "COOK COVNTY COVRT HOVSE."

Hail Caesar! Go Sox!

Significantly, there is not one arcade, but two -- east-west (from Clark to LaSalle) and north-south (from Randolph to Washington Streets. As at Versailles, power radiates outward to all points of the compass.

In practical terms, the corridors join the financial muscle of LaSalle Street to the west with the courthouse buzz of the Richard J. Daley Center to the east. They also provide an entry into the pedway's tunnels.

What truly sets apart these corridors of power, however, is the extraordinary contrast between their imperial setting and the polyglot parade of humanity that courses through them -- aldermen, lawyers, hustlers, do-gooders, journalists and everyday folks in every color of the ethnic rainbow.

Here is Chicago in microcosm: the power, the people, the action and the architecture. Not a bad place to buy your city vehicle sticker.

3. Marshall Field & Co., block bounded by Wabash Avenue and State, Randolph and Washington Streets, 1892-1914, D.H. Burnham, D.H. Burnham & Co., Graham, Burnham & Co. -- If retailing is a form of seduction that tempts the prospective buyer to part with his or her hard-earned money, then no store in Chicago performs this act more stylishly than Field's.

The main aisle, a streetlike space that runs parallel to State Street between Randolph and Washington Streets, is the chief temptress, providing rich decoration and spatial drama in addition to perfumes and cosmetics.

It is much more than simply a climate-controlled alternative to That Great Street. It is the ultimate parallel universe, its architectural refinement -- a forest of classical columns with spiffy silver capitals -- drawing a sharp contrast to the raucous atmosphere of State Street itself.

Two atriums provide bursts of space amid the aisle's dominant horizontality. The six-story atrium on the south flaunts a dome lined with a Tiffany mosaic in regal blue, emerald and white. To the north, its undecorated, but skylit counterpart shoots upward like a skyscraper.

The main aisle also happens to be a brilliant retailing strategy: Give people a shortcut through a building and they'll be more likely to spend their money there.

4. The Monadnock Building, 53 W. Jackson Blvd., 1889-1891, Burnham & Root; addition, 54 W. Van Buren St., 1893, Holabird & Roche -- Like Field's main aisle, the Monadnock's arcade runs parallel to a main Loop street (Dearborn) and thus provides a sheltered passageway for thousands of pedestrians. But architecturally, it's of another time: the dawn of the skyscraper era, when primitive light bulbs barely cast any light.

The search for light is the key to unlocking the arcade's visual power.

On the Monadnock's super-skinny South Loop site, architect John Root didn't have room for a two-story light court like the one he had inserted into the center of the much larger Rookery Building three years earlier. Instead, Root punctuated the arcade with light shafts--open stairwells topped by skylights that run the entire height of the 16-story Monadnock.

The staircases themselves are works of art, a spectacular synthesis of robust metalwork and delicate, curving decoration.

Root brought in light from the street as well as from the sky, lining both sides of the corridor with windows. They provide a glimpse into stores ranging from a flower shop to a bagel shop, a bar to a "shoe hospital." It is a delightful paradox that the arcade at once feels like an extension of the street and a world unto itself.

Holabird & Roche wisely continued the arcade in their 1893 addition to the Monadnock, making it even longer, skinnier and more streetlike than before.

Here, unlike Disneyland, the turn-of-the-last-century charm is real.

5. Chicago Board of Trade addition, 141 W. Jackson Blvd. (building actually faces Van Buren Street), 1980, Murphy/Jahn -- Midcentury modernism gave us bland, utilitarian cut throughs, like the well-used but dreary interior pathways at 111 E. Wacker and the other black-curtained high-rises of Illinois Center. But postmodernism restored style to the art of the shortcut.

One of the best examples is Helmut Jahn's addition to the Board of Trade, conveniently located across Van Buren from the Chicago Board Options Exchange and leading into the lobby of the original Chicago Board of Trade at 141 W. Jackson Blvd. For traders as well as the public, this is a great way to get from the foot of LaSalle through to Van Buren without snaking around outside--a kind of Main Street for the Wall Street of the Midwest.

With its scalloped aqua walls, sleek ship's railings and a long backlit ceiling panel, Jahn's entryway evokes the masterful Art Deco lobby of the 1930 Board of Trade without being a slavish imitation.

Compared to the pumped-up, overblown interiors that prevailed throughout the 1980s--Philip Johnson's over-the-top, gilded lobby at 190 S. LaSalle St. is one of the ultimate examples of this Schwarzenegger-ization of space -- the Board of Trade lobby is refreshingly human-scaled, almost intimate.

It's not easy to make your way through the post-9/11 security maze that leads from the new Board of Trade lobby to the old. But ask the security guards for directions.

I suspect you'll enjoy the stunning display of Art Deco ornament when you arrive.

update 2/28/06. Some more urban shortcuts are provided by readers, archived here.


What a great resource! We had been looking for one of these scanned "Pedways" maps online for awhile before finding this. Thanks again for a commonsense approach to presenting "e-info".

Oh you're welcome - though, really should thank Blair Kamin at the Tribune.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on February 23, 2006 9:01 AM.

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