After lunch with a friend, I ducked in to Best Buy for a printer cartridge and took this photograph while waiting in line. More
The south end of the Federal Plaza has recently seen an upgrade of the mechanical systems that lie beneath it. After being closed for more than a year, it has been replanted and is again open to the public.
I like to imagine what stood on this spot in other days. Before the squat black Mies van der Rohe post office was built, a grand old cruciform Federal Building, capped by a fancy dome, took up the whole block. It was destroyed to make way for the present complex in the 1960s.
The buildings ringing the site—the Clark-Adams, the Com-Ed Building, and the old Marquette—seem to get along well with their new neighbor, though. And the new plantings only enhance an already appealing scene.
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.
Alexander Calder’s Flamingo has been undergoing renovation, shrouded in scaffolding and a boxy shell of plastic wrap for many weeks. Finally, the wrappings came off, revealing its newly resplendent glory. I couldn’t resist taking this picture of the flamingo in its “vanishing habitat.”