The Chicago Pinnacle was to be the tallest skyscraper in the world and bear the signature of Santiago Calatrava. But the 610 meter high building with which the Valencian architect changed his mind horizon The Chicago end will be replaced by two apartment towers of 267 and 233 meters, designed by David Childs, the brainchild of the World Trade Center reconstruction. American pride that the Spanish was going to consecrate (until its promoters ran out of funding as a result of the 2008 crisis) would give way to a design that “strengthens the city’s relationship with the natural kingdom”, its Accordingly the promoters now defend. , It is expected to be ready in 2024.

Initially called Fordham Spire, as the local real estate company Fordham was the developer, the project had been the architect of the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia since its start in 2005. The building was to be characterized by extreme thinness and height, as well as a facade made of glass modules that would simulate a spiral. In addition, it had to get the approval of the neighborhood, the local administration and even the designers of the area. “Calatrava’s design carries on the tradition of Chicago’s skyscrapers as sculptural structures,” said Lynn Osmond, president of the city’s Architecture Foundation.

However, problems soon arose. In 2006, the original developer, Christopher T. Carly had to resign due to lack of funding and sold the project to the Dublin-based Shelborne Development Company. New developer Garrett Kelleher, a minor Irish manufacturer, took the helm, although some warned that he did so with more determination than credentials. Those were the years before the financial crisis, in which the housing bubble was about to burst. At the time, the builder with the greatest political ambitions, Donald Trump, was building his own tower a few blocks away. It would have 96 floors, down from 150 of Calatra’s building, but the future President of the United States correctly guessed that the Spanish designer’s “bit of luxury”—as he contemptuously called it. the new Yorker– will not be made and, years later, declared time up That he knew it would happen because only he had the “vision and resources” to achieve something similar. They had secured financing in time and, moreover, the Calatrava building was “an impractical building” and, in terms of location, “it was like that,” he said.

Rendering of the Chicago Pinnacle skyscraper, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.
Rendering of the Chicago Pinnacle skyscraper, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.Handout (Getty Images)

This was not what the buyers thought, half of whom were foreign investors, who acquired a third of the estimated 1,200 apartments in 2008. Originally the building housed a hotel space, but the final design was devoted entirely to private residences. The apartment will have hardwood floors and cabinets, granite countertops, and 10-foot ceilings. In the common areas, there will be a gym, a basketball court, a climbing wall and even a movie theater. Prices for the 1,000-square-foot penthouse purchased by the founder of the popular Beanie Babies chain of stuffed animals ranged from $750,000 for the most modest flats to $40 million. However, by then the project had been reconsidered on several occasions, and some, which these buyers did not pay attention to, were beginning to be questioned.

What was most shocking was this extravagance along with the promotion of a building which, it was said, must sell itself. The originator-equipped sprawling sales center in the nearby NBC tower soon added additional point-of-sale events, such as an invitation to buyers to walk into the hole where the foundation was laid, which would eventually be the only element completed. He was offered to write his name and toast with champagne. Some expressed their eloquence, saying that they decided on it, and not on Trump Tower, because the tycoon’s building gave them a kind of New York superiority, and they wanted to identify with Chicago.

Many thought they could count on Shelborne Development Company’s vast real estate portfolio of over $2 billion. But in October 2008, Calatrava, with the intention of lobbying for the collectible, filed a lien on the $11 million project, which was involved in another architectural firm. There were also credits to the outstanding banks, and the main lender, the Anglo Irish Bank, had to be nationalized to avoid financial bankruptcy. Promoters also recognized that Chicago unions, eager to employ the growing number of unemployed, would give them loans in exchange for giving up control of hiring. union Initially agreed, but many of the investment funds that supported him refused to lend the money to Shelborne and backed down.

Lake Shore-Drive, two towers by David Childs that will replace the Calatrava project.
Lake Shore-Drive, two towers by David Childs that will replace the Calatrava project.

The final blow came with the foreclosure submitted by Irish Bank due to non-payment of loan by the developer. The project, with which the 1999 Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts would go on to mark one of the greatest milestones of his career at the height of his famed Milwaukee Art Museum (2001), was definitively dead in December 2010. It seemed, when appointed the new administrator of the justice parcel. He went to the tower that Calatra believed to be similar to the seashells he made on his journey.

it is not possible to know that peak Calatrava’s other works would have generated similar criticism. That’s at least the decision of the essay’s author, journalist Litzer Moix. We are a Calatrava. wanted to (Anagram), in which he analyzes the devotion given to the architect and what he considers to be his weak point. “The project barely completed foundation work, so it is difficult to say whether execution would have led to conditions that we have seen on other occasions such as delays, manifold budgets or sacrificing specific features.” By email, Moix also points to “the primacy of the formal” over materials as a possible element of conflict: “The height and thinness, as well as the necessary and strong central core of concrete, were going to significantly reduce the useful surface. Available inside”.

Years later Shelborne made a new effort. In 2013, Kelleher attempted to regain control, with Irish Bank owning and the plot for sale. Correoso was about to be acquired months after a new promoter closed the debt payment plan and, in parallel, allowed it to continue construction. But it eventually lacked the financing to pay the main creditor and they gave certain shelter in late 2014, saying that the needle would not be built.

Planetarium, sculpture by Santiago Calatrava, located in Chicago's River Point Park.
Planetarium, sculpture by Santiago Calatrava, located in Chicago’s River Point Park.alami

Instead, he opted to develop a new project led by David Childs, best known for designing the skyscraper that replaced the Twin Towers, the Times Square Tower, or the US Embassy in Ottawa. In the Chicago project, Childs works closely with Skidmore Owings and Merrill, the architecture studio that in 2010 allowed American designer Adrian Smith to sign off on the construction of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in Dubai. With its 828 metres, it is one of three that today would surpass the failed Calatrava Needle, on the plot of which the child is now building two glass and stone buildings with metal inlays that resemble a pair of waterfalls. Will be And that some of the ceilings adorning the glass would be their biggest attraction. Carefully placed at proportionate intervals, these outdoor seating areas will provide a rare opportunity to enjoy 180-degree panoramic views of the lake, river and cityscape.

Calatrava, at least, was able to compensate in 2020 by installing a statue in the city’s River Point Park. about nine meters long, planetarium protects peak The spiral tries to convey a sense of shape and height from the ground. Regarding this, the architect said that it gave him the “honor” of being integrated into Chicago’s urban landscape. He praised Jim Walsh of the real estate firm Hines, one of the promoters of the work, who said: “The reflections of this bright red sculpture in the river and in the glass tower would be an incredible spectacle of the clock. There’s a great artistic touch to the edge.”