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Bertrand Goldberg Associates - Marine City, Chicago


Marina City is a mixed-use residential/commercial building complex occupying an entire city block on State Street in Chicago, Illinois. It lies on the north bank of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, directly across from the Loop district. The complex consists of two high rise corncob-shaped 65-story towers (including five-story elevator and physical plant penthouse), at 587-foot (179 m) tall. It also includes a saddle-shaped auditorium building, and a mid-rise hotel building, all contained on a raised platform adjacent to the river. Beneath the raised platform at river level is a small marina for pleasure craft, hence, giving the structures their name.


The Marina City complex was designed in 1959 by architect Bertrand Goldberg and completed in 1964 at a cost of $36 million financed to a large extent by the union of building janitors and elevator operators, who sought to reverse the pattern of white flight from the city's downtown area. When finished, the two towers were both the tallest residential buildings and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world. The complex was billed as a city within a city, featuring numerous on-site facilities including a theatre, gym, swimming pool, ice rink, bowling alley, several stores and restaurants, and of course, a marina.

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Marina City was the first urban post-war high-rise residential complex in the United States and is widely credited with beginning the residential renaissance of American inner cities. Its model of mixed residential and office uses and high-rise towers with a base of parking has become a primary model for urban development in the United States and throughout the world, and has been widely copied throughout many cities internationally. Marina City construction employed the first tower crane used in the United States.


The two towers contain identical floor plans. The bottom 19 floors form an exposed spiral parking ramp operated by valet with 896 parking spaces per building. The 20th floor of each contains a laundry room with panoramic views of the Loop, while floors 21 through 60 contain apartments (450 per tower). A 360-degree open-air roof deck lies on the 61st and top story. The buildings are accessed from separate lobbies that share a common below-grade mezzanine level as well as ground-level plaza entrances beside the House of Blues. Originally rental apartments, the complex converted to condominiums in 1977.

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Marina City apartments are unique in containing almost no interior right angles. On each residential floor, a circular hallway surrounds the elevator core, which is 32 feet (10 m) in diameter, with 16 pie-shaped wedges arrayed around the hallway. Apartments are composed of these triangular wedges. Bathrooms and kitchens are located nearer to the point of each wedge, towards the inside of the building. Living areas occupy the outermost areas of each wedge. Each wedge terminates in a 175-square-foot (16.3 square meter) semi-circular balcony, separated from living areas by a floor-to-ceiling window wall. Because of this arrangement, every single living room and bedroom in Marina City has a balcony.

Cultural references

  • The towers are featured on the front cover of the Wilco album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
  • The towers are included in a collage on the rear cover of the Sly and the Family Stone album There's a Riot Goin' On.
  • The label on Mercury Records recordings in the 1970s and early 1980s featured a painting of the towers along with the IBM Building and the John Hancock Building.
  • Legendary AM radio station WCFL was located on the 16th floor of the office building from 1965 to circa 1985. Studio One looked out over the Chicago River.
The towers have been featured locations in a few film, videogame and television productions:
  • The Bob Newhart Show (1972–1978), The opening sequence included a shot of Marina City, leading many to assume that the character lived there. The actual building used for exterior shots of Bob's apartment sits seven miles to the north, on Sheridan Road in the Edgewater neighborhood.
  • Three The Hard Way (1974), Jagger Daniels (Fred Williamson) is a resident in one of the towers.
  • The Hunter (1980), "Papa" Thorson (Steve McQueen) pursues a suspect in a car chase through the parking garage. His quarry eventually loses control and drives off a high floor of the garage into the Chicago River. This scene was later recreated for anAllstate commercial in 2006/2007.[2]
  • Knight Rider’s 1985 season premierie "Knight of the Juggernaut" when Michael Knight and Marla Simmonds were escaping from Thorsen's henchmen.
  • Nothing In Common (1986), the parking ramp was used as a location in the Tom Hanks film.
  • The towers are also often in background shots of Chicago, most notably:
  • Emergency Call Ambulance ( Sega 1999), Arcade racing videogame - the player drives between the towers in the 3rd case, and the towers are visible from a longer distance in the final case as well.
  • The towers were used on the face of Mercury Records albums that were released during the 1970s and early 1980s.


Marina City on Google Earth:

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