looking at marina city

8 Dec

Wilco's iconic album cover borrows from Bertrand Goldberg's iconic towers

Since becoming an editor at a building-and-design magazine, I’ve grown fond of architecture. It’s all around me. On my screen, in my hands, out my window. Hard to live in a place like Chicago and not appreciate things ornament, engineering, and bridge design. It’s one of our proudest exports, our architecture. And since my day deals in urban infill and LEED certification, I’ve grown especially aware of the built environment I move in and out of each day.

Earlier this week, I was walking along the Chicago River to give my eyes a rest from the monitor and eventually came to Marina City, the most iconic riverfront structure we have. If you don’t know it by name, you at least know it from the cover of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The twin towers hover over the water, boats parked in their empty bellies.

In spite of feeling outdated, their repetition always mesmerizes me. This fall, two photographers exhibited a show called Inside Marina City and answered a question most Chicagoans have asked themselves at some point: what is it like up there?

Mostly terrible, seemed to be the answer. It wasn’t anything like what I imagined. From the inside, the building looked even older than it did from the outside. The rooms were washed out and faded, and so were the people in them. >

"Horns," from Inside Marina City by Andreas E.G. Larsson and Iker Gil

"Yellow Kitchen," Inside Marina City

"Lady in Red," Inside Marina City

On my walk, I thought about those photographs, about how I couldn’t decide if they unspooled the myth or added to it. I thought about writing this very post, but decided against it. Everyone knows Marina City. Everyone knows Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

But then today, Gapers Block linked to a short film called Covers by Luis Urcolo, and it was a wonderfully simple concept cleanly executed. Got me thinking about all this again, especially once it reached the four-minute mark. I’d say more, but it’s better if you just watch it. Everything should make sense soon enough.

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