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Feds Flip Flop on Chicago GSA Project
As office retrofit expands, Julie Snow loses commission to 4240 Architecture
4240 Architecture is retrofitting an office building for the General Services Administration.
Courtesy GSA

An old department store on State Street is getting a new look as part of the expansion of the Chicago Federal Center. The Chicago office of 4240 Architecture has been tapped to redesign the old Bond department store, which will house offices for the Department of Labor, and other federal tenants such as the General Services Administration (GSA).

The current project now encompasses the whole building, thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. An earlier scheme by prominent Minneapolis-based modernist Julie Snow had called only for a new entrance and lobby on the rear of the building at Quincy Court, the alley turned pedestrian street behind the Dirksen Federal Building. In that scheme, Snow proposed covering the facade with a subtly folded plane and a narrow band of glazing that ran vertically up the building.

The original Bond department store (top), said to have been designed in part by Moris Lapidus. The building today (bottom).

When the scope of work expanded to include the entire structure, less money was available for the Quincy Court entrance. 4240, now able to work with the whole building, opted to move a service elevator, allowing for much more glazing and transparency. On the State Street side, digital fritting evokes the horizontal bands of the old department store, which the architects say was designed in part by Morris Lapidus.

“We looked a lot at the mass/void relationship. We wanted to allude to that without replicating it,” said Robert Benson, associate principal at 4240. “The building will be open and bright, which we think is a nice message for the federal government to send through its buildings.”

The Quincy Court entrances proposed by 4240 (left) and Julie Snow (right).

For her part, Snow is unfazed that her design won’t be built. “You have to roll with the realities,” she said, adding that her firm is working on other projects for the GSA. “It’s great to work on public projects in whatever capacity you can,” she added.

Demolition work has been completed, and Benson said he expects the project to conclude in 2012.

Alan G. Brake