Get Ready to Watch the Chicago Marathon

Autumn in Chicago isn’t just about the crisp air, colorful leaves, and pumpkin-spiced everything. It’s also about the thrilling sound of thousands of feet pounding the pavement, as the city gears up for the iconic Bank of America Chicago Marathon. For our residents at Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview, this October isn’t just any other month; it’s a front-row seat to one of the world’s premier running events.

Circle Sunday, October 8, 2023, on your calendar. The marathon unfolds in Grant Park, with gradual starts ensuring smooth sailing. For those not racing, join the celebration at Abbott 27.2 Fest from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. near the start line for a day full of music, food and fun. While Grant Park’s start and finish zones have some viewing restrictions, the race course offers numerous sweet spots for spectator cheering and encouragement.

The first mile of the marathon, Image via Flickr by Paladin27

The annual footrace is truly a global gathering, where more than 45,000 runners from every state in the U.S., and over 100 countries worldwide come together. Taking the runners on a grand tour, the 26.2-mile route dives deep into the city’s heart, stretching from Wrigleyville to the North, Pilsen and Little Italy to the West and the historic Douglass, near Guaranteed Rate Field, to the South. 

The prestigious event is more than just a marathon; it’s one of only six World Marathon Majors across the globe. For Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview residents, you have the privilege of stepping right outside to cheer on the incredible racers. And for the Optima Verdana community, consider making the short trip down from Wilmette. It’s a spectacle you won’t want to miss. You can find more details about the iconic event here!

Chicago Skyscraper History: Tribune Tower

Chicago is home to a diverse array of styles and voices that have forever marked architecture in the city, and in the world. In our Chicago Skyscraper History series, we’re taking a magnifying lens to the skyline and looking at the unique buildings and stories that define it. Today, our focus is on the iconic Tribune Tower.

A Historic Landmark and Event

While the original Tribune Tower was built in 1868, it was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The iconic neo-Gothic tower as we know it today rose from the ashes of that tragedy. Hoping to replace the home they’d lost, the Chicago Tribune hosted a design competition in 1922 inviting architectural firms internationally to submit proposals for their new headquarters, in celebration of the paper’s 75th anniversary. The first prize proposal would receive $50,000 for “the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world.”

In total, 260 entries were received by architectural greats such as Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and Bauhaus-founder Walter Gropius. While many entries received critical acclaim during the widely-publicized competition (and are archived today at the Art Institute of Chicago), the first-prize spot went to New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood.

The neo-Gothic design from Howells & Hood features ornate buttresses at the peak of the tower, which can be seen peeking out above the city skyline, illuminated at night. The highly decorative tower features details such as carved images of Robin Hood (representing architect Raymond Hood) and howling dogs (representing architect John Mead Howells), as well as countless gargoyles — one of which is a frog.

Tribune Tower, with Optima Signature and Optima Chicago Center visible to its right
Tribune Tower, with Optima Signature and Optima Chicago Center visible to its right

The lowest levels of the building also feature rocks and bricks from numerous historically significant sites across the world. These 149 special fragments include stones from the Great Pyramid, Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, Notre Dame de Paris, the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal and even petrified wood from the Redwood Forests. From 1999-2011, the building even featured a Moon rock, brought by Buzz Aldrin on loan from NASA.

The tower, which is a Chicago landmark and part of the Michigan-Wacker Historic District, has been home to the Chicago Tribune, Tribune Media, Tribune Publishing and WGN Radio. Most recently in early 2018, work began to convert the entire office building into ultra-luxury condominiums. The building’s neighborhood, Streeterville, is also home to our Optima Signature and Optima Chicago Center residences. We’re biased, but we love the history and significance the neighborhood holds to the city. 

No matter its function, the Tribune Tower will always remain a remarkable part of architectural history, in both Chicago and the world.

The Architecture of Bertrand Goldberg

Chicago is home to a vast array of architectural diversity, from Modernism to Prairie School and beyond. Although no two city skyscrapers are the same, Marina City is one building that particularly stands out. Built by American architect Bertrand Goldberg, the industrial series of towers represent his unique mark on Chicago architecture. Today, we’re taking a closer look at Goldberg’s life and work.

Bertrand Goldberg presenting a model of Marina City; photo courtesy of BertrandGoldberg.org
Bertrand Goldberg presenting a model of Marina City; photo courtesy of BertrandGoldberg.org

Early Life and Architectural Beginnings

Born local to Chicago in 1913, Bertrand Goldberg left the US for Germany at the ripe young age of eighteen in 1932. There, he studied at the Bauhaus and worked at the small architectural office of Bauhaus director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Like many others studying and working in Germany during that period, Goldberg eventually had to flee the country under mounting political pressure and civil unrest. After a brief stint in Paris, Goldberg returned to his hometown in Chicago to continue his career.

Prentice Women’s Hospital, designed by Bertrand Goldberg, in Chicago, IL
Prentice Women’s Hospital, designed by Bertrand Goldberg, in Chicago, IL

The Work of Bertrand Golberg

At only 23 years old, Goldberg opened his own architectural office in Chicago. He was most known for his innovative structural solutions to complex problems, with commissions that included designing an easily transportable structure for the North Pole chain of ice cream shops as well as many prefabricated projects and mobile vaccine laboratories for the US government. 

His work was always experimental, testing out ways to create unconventional forms through extremely conventional and mundane materials. His most popular project is Marina City, often referred to as the “corn cobs,” which stand out in sharp relief against the Chicago riverfront. 

Marina City is a mixed-use complex of five concrete towers, built in 1961-1964, that has continued to change and evolve over time. Goldberg’s original plan was complete with an office building, theater, public pedestrian plaza, an active rail line, a marina, an ice skating rink and a bowling alley. Though the rail line and skating rink are no longer standing, the theater remains, converted in the Chicago House of Blues venue.

The success and critical acclaim of Marina City inspired many of Golberg’s later structures, including River City in Chicago and several hospital structures across the country. Though Goldberg died in Chicago in 1977, he has built a lasting legacy and forever left his mark on the Chicago skyline.

Chicago’s Public Art: Crown Fountain

As we continue to explore Chicago’s public art, we recognize and celebrate that sculpture comes in all shapes, forms and purposes. Today, we’re exploring an iconic Chicago fixture, oft-overlooked in the medium: Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain. Alongside being the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day in the city — or to people watch — Crown Fountain is a fascinating and experimentally expressive work of sculptural art.

Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, Crown Fountain consists of two fifty-foot glass block towers at opposite ends of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video footage of faces, collected from 1,000 different Chicago residents, and spurt water from an outlet in the screen centered on the video projections’ mouths. The interactive sculpture is a reference to the traditional use of gargoyles, often used as the source of water projects in fountains, where the mythical creatures’ eruption of water symbolizes giving life. Overall, construction took six months and cost $17 million, adding Crown Fountain to Chicago’s collection of world-renowned public art in July of 2004.

The video footage of the faces projected was a collaborative project between the artist, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Columbia College Chicago (CCC). 75 ethnic, social and religious organizations were asked to nominate individuals for the project, and those individuals were then filmed by SAIC students using professional-grade equipment. Filming the footage was such an intensive process that it became an informal master’s course in public art. Overall, 1,051 subjects were filmed and 960 subjects’ footage is utilized for the sculpture.

Crown Fountain was inevitably one of Millennium Park’s most controversial installations. Many were worried that the height of the towers would interrupt the architecture of the public park. Yet the sculpture won its place in the public heart with its quirkiness and comfort, inviting all to laugh and play with it. Crown Fountain’s legacy, like the legacy of Chicago, is one that celebrates community, playfulness, art and innovation.

Neighborhood Spotlights: Our Favorite Streeterville Spots

Home to Optima Signature and Optima Chicago Center, Streeterville is one of Chicago’s many thriving neighborhoods. Nestled just north of the Loop in downtown, the Streeterville area intersects the art, culture, food and event scenes of the Windy City. Here are just a few of our favorite spots:

The Chicago Riverwalk

Whether you’re looking for a fun Friday night out or to learn more about Chicago’s history, the Riverwalk is your destination for a good time. Spend an evening at City Winery’s riverside location, hop on an architectural boat tour or go for a quick jog around downtown Chicago. Although best experienced in the city’s warmer months, the Chicago Riverwalk is a fantastic spot for Optima residents, visitors and locals alike. 

The Restaurant Scene

Like the rest of Chicago, Streeterville boasts plenty of amazing restaurants and drinkeries. For a night of fantastic food, The Purple Pig’s tapas, the pasta at Volare Ristorante, or a lobster roll at the Hampton Social are just around the corner. From Sunday brunch to Friday evening date night, Streeterville’s culinary scene doesn’t disappoint. 

Streeterville, with Optima Signature in the skyline
Streeterville, with Optima Signature in the skyline

The Culture

Within Chicago’s vast cultural ecosystem, Streeterville claims a handful of spectacular museums and organizations. The Museum of Contemporary Art, located up Michigan Avenue, is one of the world’s largest contemporary art venues, established in 1967. One of Chicago’s most iconic destinations, Navy Pier is home to the Children’s Museum, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and events throughout the year, including EXPO Chicago. 

We’re proud to have strong roots in Chicago, and excited to be a contributing part of the Streeterville neighborhood; Stay tuned for more neighborhood spotlights on our other Optima communities.

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