難波の南蛮、戎橋の夷。

Land of the Giants

One of the things I truly wanted to do while back in America was visit Chicago.  Having an interest in cities, how could I pass the opportunity up?  Chicago has almost exactly the same population as Osaka, and to some degree the same historic role of “Second City,” so they make interesting counterparts.  And for someone with an interest in high-rise architecture, Chicago has the allure of having most of America’s tallest buildings.

Including THE tallest...

Sears Tower (none of that Willis nonsense), to date the tallest high-rise in the United States since 1974, tallest in the world by roof height (true measure of a building’s real height IMO) until Taipei got in in 2004, and still fifth-tallest in the world by roof height.  Built in the extreme southwest corner of the Loop, the old financial district, for an army of Sears Co. office workers the department store could never fulfill.  I ascended for a view I hadn’t seen in years.

To the south, past downtown to the Dan Ryan Expressway, Chinatown, Sox Field, and (I can only assume), my old alma mater in the haze on the horizon.

 

To the north, to Evanston my place of birth, and Milwaukee along the shore out of sight.

But I came more for THIS…

The park of giants. Looking northeast from America's tallest building, here are the third, fourth, and fifth tallest after the Empire State.

 

The center of Chicago is so built up at times it's easy to lose one's sense of depth.

 

The newest renovation to the Sears Tower skydeck is a group of glass chambers that hang over the structural edge of the building, enabling one to…

...stand suspended some 400 meters in the air, staring straight down- if you can put your trust in materials engineering.

 

I even managed to catch a bit of the ongoing Air and Water Show, with the Thunderbirds pulling their F-16s around the city.

 

On solid ground once more, looking back up at the glass chambers of vertigo.

 

A bit of older architecture by Millennium Park along the lake. This was more like the average height of the downtown skyline until the 1960s.

 

On the right is the old Standard Oil Building, 1973, America's fourth tallest tower. To the left, the Prudential Building was Chicago's tallest during the 1950s.

 

The El trundles by in the shadow of the Trump, now America's third tallest.

 

It doesn't look real, does it?

At the base of the John Hancock, 1969, America's fifth tallest.

 

 

A little piece of back home has followed me here...

 

The old water tower, famous as a survivor of the 1871 fire that almost completely leveled the city.

 

Back in the Loop near the Sears Tower, the 1930 Chicago Board of Trade was the city's tallest building until the 1950s.

 

The building features decorations symbolic of trade and commerce...but the do give the place something of an almost occult feel...

 

The Sears, looming in the dark over the white buildings of the old Loop.

 

Despite having the same number of people at roughly three times the density, Osaka cannot boast nearly the same madcap construction Chicago has.  Part of this is no doubt the influence of earthquakes, which precluded any high-rise construction until the structural advances of the 1960s.  But part of it has to be an approach to buildings that differs between the two countries.  Japan builds for function, turning out relatively nondescript and small buildings meant simply to house workers or tenants.  America, though, tends to build monuments, grand towers intended to boast of their cities and owners.

The American approach may seem pompous, but it has its positive points, as larger architecture tends to show a greater attention to detail and appreciation for architecture, as opposed to Japan’s nondescript little gray boxes, thrown out wholesale in the 1970s with next to no consideration for aesthetic.  Since the 1980s, though, Japanese high-rise architecture has begun to show a greater sense of proportion and style, perhaps a quiet concession that sometimes a great city just needs some monuments, no matter how modest.

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2 responses

  1. Truly a day of wonder: Park of Giants, indeed. I have a new appreciation of my favorite city after reliving our day through your photographs. The transparent ledge straight down, the jets, the garden of the Olympians, the board of trade and its very strange symbology…
    and PIZZA

    August 28, 2011 at 1:33 PM

  2. I have lived in Chicago all my life, and have been going downtown to shoot pictures of the city for the last two years. I have never been able to achieve the quality of your photos. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs.

    Bob

    June 15, 2012 at 8:19 AM

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