"Critics and scholars have consistently
praised its graceful proportions, the elegance of its detailings, and the sophistication
of its public art. But the Inland Steel Building has not been adequately cited for one of
its most praiseworthy attributes, the civic benefit of its presence on the
streetscape." --Lawrence Okrent, AIA Guide to Chicago.
Like Mies Federal Center, Inland Steel is
a powerful design that owes much of its success to the attention it pays to the street
level. It retains an inviting and passable street corner, and is beautiful materially,
with polished steel and translucent green glass gleaming in the Chicago sunlight.
Inland Steel is the proud claimant to a series
of firsts: the first skyscraper to be built with external supports and a flat, unadorned,
thin steel-and-glass curtain wall (this allows for column-free office space, a strategy
later used in the John Hancock building);
the first major structure to be built on steel pilings instead of concrete (they extend 85
feet deep through mud and clay to bedrock); the first building with an attached structure
for service and mechanical systems (which has since been outzoned, since people in the
building have to cover too far a distance to get to the stairway in case of emergency);
the first major high-rise with indoor, underground parking; and the first downtown project
for the then-emerging firm of SOM and principal Bruce Graham.