Like the rest of the ol’ Windy, I was forced today to imagine our tallest building reclad in a mirrored, silvered façade. Being an armchair architecture critic, I’m going to weigh in on the hotly-contested subject here real quick:
While the idea didn’t instantaneously nauseate me the way it did some people, I also didn’t see much point in having this $50 million renovation done. I figured it was largely to reclaim some of Big Brown‘s thunder in the wake of its new, super-shiny, almost-as-tall neighbor to the north. But it turns out the cash outlay would at least partially be motivated by the owners’ desire to get Sears certified LEED silver and, if they can scrape together fifty mil in today’s economy in order to make a resource-guzzler from the seventies a little more energy-efficient well, why not?
Part of the appeal of the Sears to me has been its unyielding badassness. Living with it in almost daily view for a few years now, I have grown to appreciate the Bruce Graham/Fazlur Khan/SOM design as one that (although it may be a little bit of a chicken-and-egg discussion) plainly and elegantly reflects Chicago’s identity. Its proportions and finishes–the dark bronze glazing especially–make it more a massive extrusion of Mies van der Rohe‘s omnipresent influence on postwar Loop architecture than an attempt to out-Manhattan Manhattan (or any other city center for that matter). Silvering the entire exterior would obviously erase much, if not all, of that key visual reference. But the pursuit of efficiency is no longer optional and, as we learned yesterday, this new era demands sacrifice from everyone–even big, brown, badass skyscrapers.