“Why do you keep talking about the window glass?”
I was training to be a boat tour guide on the Chicago river last year when I was asked this question by the person training – and critiquing – all new tour guides. Never mind that this person stayed down below deck during my test tour and missed the gist of what I said (faulty speakers?), but I thought I had hit upon a pretty great sub-theme for my river tour: architectural glass echoing the color of the river.
The Chicago river has a distinctive color (and I don’t mean St. Patrick’s Day green) that is the result of the river’s clay bottom, lake water, and algae: a lovely blue-green, best seen on warm weather days. (The lake water has only been part of the river’s composition since the river was reversed in 1900.)
As I was interpreting all the different buildings along the Chicago river for my boat tour, it struck me how many of them had blue-green window glass. The 333 Wacker is probably the prettiest of them all (see Bob Segal’s photo, above), curving along where the south and main branch meet, the reflective blue-green glass picking up the color of the river. The Sheraton Hotel on the river has this color glass, too, as do many others. Lots of buildings have blue glass that can pick up the green shades in certain light – creating that special river color.
I love how Chicago’s architecture communicates and corresponds with the river, whether by shape or setting, but especially by materials – like blue-green glass.