It’s hard to imagine the Hancock Building without this wonderful plaza—but so it was for many decades.
Yes, the building has always had a sunken plaza, but the first one was entirely inaccessible from the street and exuded a deadening air of tranquility. In winters, it became a skating rink, perhaps in imitation of Rockefeller Center.
In the 90s, the plaza was redone, the landscape firm of Jacobs/Ryan coming up with an ingenious steppy design. The cascading stairs not only provide ingress and egress, but create an inverted small-scale amphitheater that makes the plaza cozy and compact—a perfect place to see and be seen. The plaza receives thousands of visitors daily when the weather is decent, providing a welcome respite from the Michigan Avenue scene.
Soon the plaza’s curtain-wall of water will be running. Blooming flowers and red umbrella tables will add a pop of festive color.
Historical images in links from this source.