My favorite bridge is at the Madison/Wabash station, which connects all four lines in the Loop. From here, we can see right into the windows of some old Jewelers Row buildings on either side as Hensel tells us about the architects, the materials, the ornamentation. But look right down the tracks, and in the distance, perfectly framed, is the soaring Trump International Hotel and Tower, innovative for being so tall (98 stories) with a relatively small footprint. Why does it seem to fit in so well with surrounding buildings? Each of three setbacks matches the height of a nearby structure. Brilliant.
For another perspective, that afternoon I board the foundation’s popular Chicago River cruise. Docent Barry Aldridge is even more entertaining, peppering the ride with a catchphrase that he thinks best sums up the valuable role of the buildings’ designers: “Kiss your architect.” He points out 35 E. Wacker Dr., originally known as the Jewelers Building, with its distinctive classical dome, and tells us that car elevators were initially installed to provide security for the loaded-down jewelers as they made their way to their offices. For such a great idea, “kiss your architect,” he says. For the Civic Opera Building’s throne-shaped design, intended to maximize the square footage (and therefore the revenue possibilities)? “Kiss your architect.”