Chicago has its share of controversy. From gang shootings to teachers’ unions to losing sports teams. Over the last few weeks, a new storm has been brewing, and this one is far more venomous than its situation warrants.
Donald Trump, that guy from New York City, the one with the television show who fired people, has put his name — literally — on the hotel tower he completed in 2009. And Chicagoans are losing their minds. Which I don’t have a problem with, per se, except they won’t admit what really upsets them. It’s not the T, the R, the U, M, or P. It’s the Donald. The man himself, not his sign.
This city, with its amazing architecture, is chock full of big letters on tall buildings. Yet until this one, I’ve never heard a word uttered about any of them. Why? Because people hate Donald Trump. I’m no fan of his either, but it aggravates me to hear some of the mud being slung by those who can’t be fair about their feelings for him. And the complaint I’m hearing most is how the new lettering ruins the Chicago skyline. Really? Ok, let’s take a look at that.
Yeah, they’re big letters. They’re two stories high, but they’ve been placed about one-quarter of the way up the side of the tower. Guess what, folks? That’s not part of the skyline. Not even close. It is surely part of the view in River North now. You won’t be able to miss it when you’re on Wacker Drive. But it isn’t in any way detracting from what any reasonable person would deem the skyline. So we can stop saying that. Now.
The photo at the top of this page, if it had come out better, shows what I consider to be the quintessential Chicago skyline view. Starting at the south end of Grant Park, sweeping north up Michigan Avenue, and wrapping around Millennium Park along Randolph Street. If my iPhone had caught a better shot, you’d see several examples of signage along Michigan Ave. Though hard to discern, the Trump Tower stands tall toward the right-hand side of the picture. But what you won’t see, no matter how close you zoom in from this vantage point, is the Trump sign on the side. Why? Because they aren’t high enough to be part of the skyline.
We’ll start working our way northward starting with the photo on the right, showing signage above the Harrison Hotel and Essex Inn. As you may have noticed elsewhere, hotels seem to have a history of putting large signs on their buildings. And remember, Trump Tower is a hotel, as well as a residence. The next photo includes the sign on another hotel, the Congress, and one atop the BorgWarner Building at 200 South Michigan. A small investigation shows this has nothing to do with a Swedish tennis player from the 70s and Theo from The Cosby Show, but rather a company involved in engines and powertrains. But enough about that. What we have is yet another prominent hotel sign, as well as a brand name, appearing along the top of the skyline.
Hmm. Hotels and brand names. Once again, I’ll point out that Trump is a hotel, as well as a very successful brand. Two things that seem commonplace on urban signage. Nothing about this should be a surprise to us. No surprises, no controversy, right? Except no one hates Mr. Borg, of course.
Moving on, we come to one of my favorite new buildings in Chicago, the tower at Roosevelt University. And how can one easily know this is part of Roo U.? (my name, not theirs) Because they chose to add their name at the very top of the south facing, thereby making it clearly visible to anyone, say, cruising up Lake Shore Drive, or walking through the South Loop. And its blue, Lego-like appearance contrasts sharply against the backdrop of its neighbor to the north, the bright red CNA Tower. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the unimaginatively rectangular CNA building, it does add a nice splash of color to the skyline. But as with the Roosevelt building, the CNA marking at the top is equally as striking on the skyline as the red it adds. But no one seems to rail against either of these two structures marring the wonderful Chicago skyline.
So far, I’ve highlighted just six buildings in the city of Chicago that aren’t at all shy about displaying their name and brand. In my next post, we’ll continue moving north on Michigan Avenue to see what else stands out in the uppermost regions of town. Please, do come back.