Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Looking at Where Chicago Works

James R. Thompson Center by Helmut Jahn. Photo by David Kasnic.

Lee Bey stood under the rotunda at the James R. Thompson Center, 13 stories of mirror-glass balconies rising around him in tiers, and shiny elevators (now off-limits without official business) zipping up and down.

The idea of the center, which opened in 1985 at the corner of Clark and Randolph streets, was to make a new indoor civic space downtown, with state government offices supported by the retail outlets and a food court. You can get a marriage license here. You can also eat at Taco Bell. “It embodies the idea of transparent democracy,” he said. “You can see all the elements at work.”

Even the so-bad-they-are-good 1980s colors in the atrium have meaning: “It takes the elements of a traditional government building” — the dome, the flag — “and plays with them. The red, white and blue becomes a salmon and a teal.”

Continues: New York Times