Posted by: trailerpilot | 02:26::2009

Mirror, maybe, on the tall.

The Sears Tower, Chicago

The Sears Tower in 1974

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.



  1. Thanks for this one. Fascinating. I would triple that estimated cost of “greening” the Sears Tower.

    LEED certification is extremely good business for real estate developers all of a sudden. Tenants are all hot and bothered for it. Don’t know what the vacancy rate is in Chicago or the average tenant size in Sears. Both those will determine whether this project goes through. Very, very interesting.

  2. Silver?? I still don’t feel it is worth it. The money could be spent elsewhere with much greater benefits…

  3. […] Gah! First this, and now this. Maybe next they’ll give it vinyl siding and a Mansard […]

  4. The owner’s are still recladding (mostly replacing and resealing windows), but at least they quickly dropped the plans for a tacky silver finish. That just wasn’t right at all.

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