CUS Addition Being Widely Panned

A proposal to add an addition atop the head house of Chicago Union Station is being widely panned.

The design has been sharply criticized in newspapers, on blogs and on social media.

The design by Chicago-based Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties proposes a modernistic, seven-story steel and glass addition.

It would have 404 apartments while 330 hotel rooms would be added to the head house of the station, which was completed in 1925.

Most critics have said the designs of the original station and the addition at incongruous.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin described the addition as having all of the grandeur of a Holiday Inn.

“The architects are trying to create a design that they say would be compatible with, yet distinct from the addition,” Kamin wrote. “But in this case, the addition is not compatible in the least with the existing Union Station. It’s top heavy. It is a grid, a metal and glass grid that is not compatible with the carefully composed classical design.”

In The Architect’s Newspaper, Elizabeth Blasius described the addition as a self-inked address stamper.

“The proposed addition is not only an imbalance in terms of design, it’s also condescending to the station itself, the architectural equivalent of a head patting, or worse,” Blasius wrote.

Most comments on a Facebook page run by Chicago Railroad Historians have described the design of the addition as “an abomination.” Similar comments were made by some on Twitter.

However, DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman took a more positive view.

“Having a major hotel become the centerpiece of the design will strengthen the station’s role as a premier travel center,” he said, adding that he considers much of the criticism of the architectural details is misplaced.

“The design leverages the air rights above the head house building while still respecting the station’s historic character. This is a win-win for both travelers to and residents of the city of Chicago,” said Schwieterman, who is head of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

He said the plan could make Union Station’s Great Hall a tourist attraction, saying Chicago has a dismal track record when it comes to preserving historic rail terminals.

Gone are Central Station, Grand Central Station, LaSalle Street Station, and the former Chicago & North Western Terminal.

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