April 25, 2022
Project #12 in our Centennial Year celebration of our Top 100 Projects is 1958’s Borg Warner Building located along Michigan Avenue, across from the Art Institute, in Chicago.
This modernist 22-story, 350,000 square foot high-rise was a building that helped introduce the International style of architecture to Chicago, and especially Michigan Avenue which was known at the time for its ‘wall of heavy, massive, masonry’ structures. This new ‘International’ style got its name from an architectural exhibit curated by Phillip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art in New York which featured the work of Gropius, Mies and Corbusier. This ‘international’ style embraced technology, thereby allowing a steel-framed building to reach heights unheard of with masonry structures. These ‘international’ buildings also featured square or rectangular footprints, a simple cubic form, windows running in broken horizontal rows forming a grid and façade 90 degree angles. Borg-Warner was also one of the first buildings in Chicago to employ true curtainwall construction and also the first on Michigan Avenue to break away for the limestone and bronze look, using blue porcelain enamel & glass instead.
Here are some interesting stories from the development and construction of Borg-Warner:
- The building wasn’t developed for Borg-Warner, it was originally a spec building, Borg-Warner was one of the first big tenants to sign up and they wanted the top 5 floors and penthouse, as well as their name on the building. The developers, Collins, Tuttle & Co., gladly took Borg-Warner up on this deal in order to look up nearly 20% of the building.
- When drilling the caissons for the buildings foundations an unknown subterranean pond was accidently tapped into. This water needed to be removed and as it was being pumped out so much sand and silt was removed from the area that it had a huge impact on the Orchestra Hall building right next door. So bad in fact, that this pumping caused Orchestra Hall to begin to settle – including an amazing 4 inches in one day. Needless to say this sort of settling was not good and all activities at Orchestra Hall were moved from the building during the 1956-57 season while the settlement problem was fixed. Also – the builders were not too pleased with the large cash ‘settlement’ they had to pay out to Orchestra Hall as well.
- Collins, Tuttle & Co. we so pleased with our work this building that while Borg-Warner was under construction we were hired to design another modernist high-rise at the corners of LaSalle and Jackson. This relationship with Collins lasted well into the 80s as well – culminating with the completion of Chicago’s iconic Smurfit-Stone Container Building in 1984.