News / 3.23.17

Throwback Thursday – Crain’s Communications Building

Features a unique & iconic sloped atrium at the upper third of the building

This week’s Throwback Thursday trip is inspired by participation in a recent Chicago Architecture Foundation Walking Tour called Chicago Masterworks, which featured the iconic Epstein designed and engineered high-rise now known as the Crain’s Communications Building, a 41-story, 714,000 square foot office tower located on the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.


When completed in March of 1984, this high-rise tower presented a new, dynamic face to Chicago’s skyline. Located at the entrance to Chicago's downtown area, the building was designed to maximize views of the city's spectacular lakefront.  Featuring a unique sloped atrium at the upper third of the building, the southeast corner was canted 45 degrees to provide an un-paralleled view of Burnham Harbor and Grant Park. 


The Crain’s Communications Center curtain wall consists of alternating bands of white aluminum, stainless steel, and silver reflecting glass.  These materials create an arresting structure, constantly changing in appearance as the sun traverses it during the day.  At night, the illuminated apex emphasizes the building's crystalline qualities.

The building was designed by Epstein for the New York-based development firm of Collins, Tuttle and Company. At the time of it’s opening, the Crain’s Communications Building featured state-of-the-art, computer-controlled systems for HVAC, energy management, fire protection, security and elevators. It was also one of the first major commercial buildings with a building management system using high-precision, industrial-quality controls to ensure efficient use of energy and precise control over the building's environment.

Our interiors group, known as Interior Space International back in ’84, also provided design services for a variety of tenants entering the building.


Additionally, under contract with the City of Chicago, our civil engineering group performed investigations to determine location of existing sewer systems and utilities, for design of an underground pedestrian walkway. This ‘pedway’ ran under Randolph Street at Michigan Avenue connecting the Smurfit-Stone Container Building to what was then known as the Illinois Central Railroad Station. 

When this building opened 33 years ago it was known as the Associates Center and then later as the Smurfit-Stone Container Building. And, lastly, for those members of Generation X, this building you may remember also played a central role in plot of the ‘classic’ 80s film, Adventures in Babysitting, starring Elizabeth Shue.