Brutalist Chicago Architecture Begins Spring Molt

MARINA CITY — As the Midwest finally turns the corner into a new season, the signs of spring are everywhere! This week, Chicago’s buildings in the Brutalist style got into the spirit with their own timely change, shedding their sturdy concrete carapaces to reveal the tender flesh beneath as they prepare for the warmth of summer.

As multi-ton chunks of rebar and insulation plummeted into the Chicago River from beloved Brutalist landmark Marina City Tuesday, concerned citizens were quick to call local animal control to investigate. However, together with architectural biologists from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, city authorities quickly performed their yearly checkup on the Bertrand Goldberg masterpiece building complex and pronounced both towers in perfect health.

“With so many beautiful specimens of mixed-use development utilizing strong geometry and effective mid-century urban planning in Chicago, we always get a call-in or two around this time of year,” said Ron Jettison, 54, one of the Notebaert brutoveterinarians on the scene. “But it’s really nothing to worry about.”

Just across the river, the 17th Church of Christ, Scientist shuddered as slabs of its former outer shell cascaded off its sloping flanks, crushing a taxi and causing a traffic jam at Wacker Drive and Wabash Street. “How magnificent. Just look at that striation on the underbelly — going to be beautiful when it hardens,” Jettison sighed.

Chicago’s brutalist buildings, often misrepresented as harsh and unforgiving, are at their most gentle at this time of year, and are easily approached with an outstretched hand. City authorities recommend against interaction with them, however, as molting immediately precedes the buildings’ rutting season. 

In fact, longtime city residents will remember in 1970 when a swath of the Northwest Side was put in danger shortly after the opening of the Skidmore Owings and Merrill Northwestern University Library building caused the St Mary of Nazareth Hospital to become territorial.

“As long as you give them a wide berth, and appreciate the changing light on their new coating over the course of the day, you’ll be fine,” advises Jettison. “And above all, if you do touch them, make sure to wash your hands beforehand. We all can see what happened to River City’s scales. Too bad.”

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