Calatrava’s “Chicago Spire”: North America’s Tallest Skyscraper?


With an endorsement from the Chicago City Planning Commission last week, Santiago Calatrava’s 2,000 ft. “Chicago Spire” has come one step closer to reality. The building would become North America’s tallest skyscraper, surpassing its next tallest rival, Chicago’s Sears Tower, by 550 feet.

Spire2The project has been through several iterations, according to the Chicago Tribune: ” Inevitably, some will lament that this is not the original version of the tower, called the Fordham Spire, which proposed a hotel and communications antenna as well as condos on a vacant site west of Lake Shore Drive and on the north bank of the Chicago River. But that design was a seductive fantasy. This one, which would house about 1,200 condominiums, is striving to be real. Certainly, it has made great strides toward balancing form and finance, especially since December, when Calatrava made public a banal, nearly flat-topped version of the skyscraper. It instantly was tagged ‘Twizzler Tower’ (see video, below right) for resembling a piece of licorice. Since then, the restless architect has moved gradually to the present plan, in which the tower rises energetically but nobly, making a 360-degree twist as it moves from the ground to a sharply articulated summit.”

Recent improvements to the plan, including moving a parking structure underground and a generous financial commitment toward the development of adjacent DuSable Park (named for Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, the first non-native settler of Chicago) from Shelbourne Development, appear to have won city planners over. The Chicago Spire’s plan includes 150 stories, each of which would rotate two degrees from the one below it , to a total rotation of 360 degrees. The videos below show part of a presentation Calatrava gave to the Chicago City Planning Commission (left) and an earlier plan for the project.

City panel endorses Spire’s latest twist [chicago tribune]
Chicago Spire gets Plan Commission OK [crain’s chicago business]

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  1. says

    Chicago’s skyline is one of the most beautiful to behold. I honestly don’t know how this will add to it, it seems a bit out of place in the artist renderings. I wish we could get off this “tall” kick and concentrate on simply “beautiful”.

  2. chris says

    It looks like Chicago’s really getting screwed on this one! har har

    Seriously, though, that is one ugly building. Thirty years from now, people will be asking, “what were they thinking?”.

  3. Mike says

    I like the flat top version better, this seems to be too European/Asian in design.
    If anyone has never been to Chicago in the summer, you are missing one ofthe most beatiful cities in North America. The architecture (not just in downtown), the lakefront, prks etc. are first rate. Markt Days in boystown the 2nd weekend of Aug. is a blast.

  4. says

    It really couldn’t be more phallic if they tried. Wow.

    I’m not sure which design I like better architecturally. The licorice stick was more interesting and daring. It wasn’t very building-like, though. It looked like a sculpture that would work better on a much smaller scale.

    This new design is more building-like, but more ho-hum to me. It’s not daring at all.

    The Petronas Towers, now those are interesting and attractive. Why can’t we get architecture like that here in the States?

  5. Zeke says

    Another thing: I thought the “Freedom Tower” to be built on the site of the WTC, at 1776 feet tall, was SUPPOSED to be the tallest building in the WORLD upon its completion.

    If my math is right, that would make this building a good 200+ feet taller, so if the claims about the “Freedom Tower” are accurate, then this building would be the tallest in the world, right?

    Unlike the “Freedom Tower”, this building doesn’t rely on an antenna for 200 feet of its height footage.

  6. Brian says

    I think it’s an interesting addition to the Chicago skyline… the screwy lines are whimsical. And yes, it does look like a big dildo… perhaps that’s what they’ll call it when all the A-list Chicago gay boys move in. “I live in the big dildo in the sky, girl… come on over… “

  7. says

    As one who actually lives in Chicago, I like this building — in its current stage. I think it’ll add to our unique and beautiful skyline. I guess the building is doing its job as a work of art. If the building were more plain, no one would comment on it, positively or negatively.

    For those of you who have never been to Chicago, make sure you visit and stop by to visit us at Manifold!

  8. anon says

    To me this looks like a drill bit that started somewhere in China and kept going, however, it’s not ugly. Weren’t people saying that terrorism would keep tenants out of tall buildings? Who’s putting up the money for this?

  9. Charles says

    I think it’s horrible-it looks like it should be in Dubai or Singapore or some city that is building for the Guinness Book instead of building towards the goal of making a better city.

    I dont like Calatrava’s work in general-he’s very shticky and one-note, so that appeals to the average person who just knows “what they like” and isnt that visually informed or educated about architecture. He’s creating art pieces that you can live in-that’s different from buildings that fits into the city and pushes it forward. He had a show at the Met Museum in New York and t confirmed that opinion-he presented these tacky gold, platinum and brass sculptures and the buildings are a 1:1 translation-he just scales them way way up and people fall for it.

    And to explain the snotty paragraph above, I’m an architect myself and among a lot of architects, my opinion of Calatrava is not unusual.

  10. Brian says

    Some architects might not like Calatrava’s work, but they neither pay for the buildings or (unless they practice locally) have to live with them. The majority of people I’ve talked with in Milwaukee have adored his work on the art museum there… for once people are talking about the Milwaukee skyline when not a peep was made about it beforehand. Don’t know what that says about Calatrava’s architectural pedigree, but it certainly does say something for his ability to produce buildings that start conversations about art among people who never would have discussed the subject otherwise.

  11. says

    i was going to say what has been said multiple times before and i have never actually seen a dildo its one of those unexplainable things where everyone thinks the same thing ex this taste like shit , though one has not eaten shit before (excluding middle class white males i.e jackass with to much time on hands)

  12. pacificoceanboy says

    I like it.

    It is a samll step away from the 90 degree angles, boxes, and straight line anti-nature mindset.

    it isn’t perfect but it is a step in the right direction towards a more organic in apperance architecture.

    There are NO 90 degree angles or plum straight lines in nature. Those things are not only unnatural, they are aestheticaly unappealing, spiritualy deadening, and architecturaly unstable. Curvilinear lines are much more stable, natural, and appealing to our billion year old genes.

  13. says

    It’s interesting that someone would criticize a favorable opinion because an “artist” appeals to the masses. Just because someone (Charles!) may be trained in the technical aspects of architecture, doesn’t mean that an opinion about what’s aesthetically pleasing is more or less valid.

    If put up millions of dollars (and the work is still UNfunded as of now), I want a building to appeal to as many people as possible.

  14. Jason says

    Zeke, the tallest building in the world won’t even be in the U.S. It’s located in Dubai and is called, appropriately I suppose, Burj Dubai which means Dubai Tower.

  15. th says

    at least the flat-topped one doesn’t look like a dildo. chicago wouldn’t hear the end of it if they make the other dildo one. do they want that racy attention? maybe they do, if they decide to go through with it. maybe chicago will be the porn capital of the world next! HAHA

  16. Becks07 says

    Oh goodness. Please build the flat-topped one. It’s far more interesting and, frankly, less obviously passe.

    That CAD, approaching the city from the lake…it looks like some common Manhunt photo of a guy laying back, sporting his big hard-on.

    Ugh. And I do love my Santiago — Valencia uber alles, darling! — but thjis is just not right.

    Was Norman Foster busy?


  17. Chris says

    There was a bit on ABC World News last night about Dubai, and they already have this building beat.

    There’s a skyscraper there that looks sort of like this one, but it has individual floors that rotate independently of one another!

    It would be interesting to work in a building where the view outside your window is constantly changing…

  18. angela says

    if this building gets built i will move OUT of chicago.
    who agreed to place a GIANT dildo on the lakefront?
    what moron actually approved this building.
    not only that, but how much ENERGY is the damn thing going to consume.
    are they going to make great efforts to be as “green” as possible? the energy costs in chicago are already astronomical.
    this building will be a plague on the city

  19. dw314 says

    I think Chicago is to be commended for aways being the premier US city when it comes to architecture.

    FYI, a little black history.Pointe Du Sable was a black/french fur trader who “discovered” Chicago. I think the name Chicago had something to do with an icky smell. Anybody know the correct story?

    Oh yeah. It’s a total dildo. I find it hard to believe the folks at the top haven’t thought about how Chicago is going to be known as the home of the worlds largest dildo.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Actually it could become a major selling point for women and our lesbian friends who are looking for a new place to go on their “Olivia” vacations. There’s a big park right there where they could hold Lilith Fairs or Sapphic moon worshipping.

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