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Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation

Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

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Blue Cross-Blue Shield Of Illinois Tower

Built: 1997
Designed by: Lohan Associates
Renovated: 2007-2009 by Goettsch Partners at a cost of $270,000,000
Type: Skyscraper
Stories: 57
Maximum Height: 796 feet / 243 meters
Location: 300 East Randolph Street, Chicago, United States
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Description by Wayne Lorentz
F or years this building provided a dignified presence on the edge of the railroad yard that would eventually be decked over to become Millennium Park. It looked out over Grant Park and the Loop with its blue glass and white accents reminding the office workers of the wonders of the great lake that lie just beyond.

That placid harmony with its surroundings was shattered in 2007. On purpose.

Many buildings in Chicago have aspirations to reach higher than they do. This is one of the few that actually attained its goal. In 2007 a project was started to add another 24 stories of offices on top of the 32 already built. The skyscraper was designed from the start for this kind of expansion. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois knew it would eventually be necessary. But the details were little more than a footnote in an archive, or a bit of trivia on a skyscraper nerd's web site for a decade.

The vertical extension cost $270,000,000 -- a little over $10 million per floor, and was more than a little complicated. First, a small derrick was brought to the roof piece-by-piece. Once installed, it was used to lift up the pieces of a larger derrick that was assembled on the roof. The larger machine was then used to disassemble the smaller one and lower it back to the ground. When that was done, the remaining derrick was used to lift the pieces of the first crane to the roof where it was assembled. The derrick was then moved and used to bring up the second crane.


It is remarkable that the upward expansion was needed so soon. Other buildings in the area have waited decades ready to be expanded, with no hint of that progress ever being made. The fact that this tower is increasing in stature will once again make it a bit of trivia.

At the time the original building was completed, it was a stately presence on East Randolph Street. But as the world progressed around it, the tower became less and less prominent. The final insult came with the 2007 completion of 340 On The Park, a 64-story residential tower next door that was double the size of the BCBS Tower. Adding another 32 stories won't bring this skyscraper head and shoulders above the rest of its neighbors, but it will at least no longer look like the runt of the litter.

The best views of this building are actually from the back. And at night. This is how you can appreciate the structure of the building. It features a massive central atrium that is clearly visible through the glass in the darkness. You can sit in Lake Shore Park and watch the internal elevators whiz up and down the edges of the atrium serving the workers toiling long into the night. That atrium is surrounded on three sides by banks of offices. The arrangement is similar to the classic light well common in many Chicago buildings built around the turn of the 20th century. People in the offices are able to get light from all sides, even if they are deep within the center of the structure.

  • Two cranes and two derricks were installed on this building for its expansion.

  • Formerly: 411 feet.
  • New height: 796 feet.
  • Forlerly: 32 stories.
  • Now: 57 stories.
  • Former floor space: 1,400,000 square feet.
  • New floor space: 2,300,000 square feet.

  • July, 2006: Plans to add 33 stories to this building are announced.
  • October, 2007: A pair of cranes are put in place at the roof line to facilitate construction.
  • November, 2009: Anticipated completion of the 33-story expansion.

  • The best views of this building are from Lake Shore Park, at the back of the building.

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Things To Look For:
  • Interior elevators, visible at night from the rear of the building.

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christine
Wednesday, May 20th, 2009 @ 8:12pm
Rating: Five stars.
Amazing...This is supposedly the largest "vertical completion" project in the nation right now. It is amazing that 32 floors of people are working during the day while construction occurs overhead. They laid millions of dollars of extra cement and made sure that the outside curtain wall could be ordered in 2008 to match the bottom section.

Brent Kampert
Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 @ 3:00pm
Rating: Five stars.
It's amazing how the architects are able to expand the building upwards, first skyscraper I have seen do that. Sadly, it will block the Sears Tower from Navy Pier.

David Shmuel
Thursday, July 26th, 2007 @ 8:16am
Rating: Four stars.
This building is okay, it's attractive. It's just not very original or daring.

tomcxp
Thursday, March 8th, 2007 @ 11:20pm
Rating: Four stars.
To truly appreciate this building you must explore within. The structure maintains an open feeling throughout and is graceful in its design. The executive floor has a different design language distinct from the rest of the structure.

jeffk
Monday, October 9th, 2006 @ 5:04pm
Rating: Four stars.
The best parts of this building are in its' structure. NEC code requires the removal of abandoned cables in plenum spaces due to life safety issues. This building uses cellular floor to safely house these cables. I just hope they keep the faith and include cellular floor in the addition.

urbaneddie
Wednesday, August 9th, 2006 @ 5:24pm
Rating: One star.
This is a boring building in a high-profile location. Too bad they didn't start with a more interesting design. Maybe once they go higher they will redesign the upper portion to give it some interest.


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