James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph Street
Lester B. Knight & Associates, associate architects.
"Very controversial" doesnt
begin to capture the outrageousness of Murphy/Jahns design. The Center manages to
use pastel colors and Jean Dubuffets "Monument with Standing Beast" to
introduce you to a government center that confirms your worst fears about where your tax
dollars are going: overheated and underventilated, noisy, visually overwhelming, and, damn
it all, strangely beautiful in its own exposed momentum.
Elevators are free-standing; escalator gears are
revealed--swift and silent machinations abound. In a country with such a dismal voter
participation rate, the aggressive exploration of democratic governmental ideals in
spatial metaphor is impressive, even if the aesthetic experience is unsettling.
unsettling, but more rewarding, aspect of the Thompson Center is coming upon it through
the orthogonal dignity of the Daley
Civic Center: it seems as though a UFO has landed amidst the upstanding
international-style and neo-classical buildings. A big, cheerful, shiny UFO.
Helmut Jahn has done much work in Chicago, including the
United Airlines terminal at OHare airport and the downtown Savings of America Tower.
Christy Rogers, 1998
How to visit
Downtown Chicago is best negotiated by foot or
train. The closest loop stop is Clark.
The Thompson Center houses more than 50 state
agencies and hosts artworks from the State of Illinois Art-in-Architecture program.