Marina City

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300 North State Street, Chicago, IL

Marina City

The Corncob Towers at Marina City
Building Information
Developer Charles R. Swibel
Architect Bertrand GoldBerg
Management Company DK Condo
Number of Units 896
Number of Floors 61
Year Built 1964
Construction Method Concrete
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300 North State Street, Chicago, IL
Distance to Public Transit About 50 transit routes nearby
Region Chicago
Municipality Chicago
Zoning PD 13
Title of Land Condominium



The twin, corncob shaped condo towers, of Marina City are some of the most unique residential towers in Chicago. The buildings have a mixed-use purpose, housing a 13-story hotel, parking, commercial space and a small marina for residents. Each residence features with its own 18-foot balcony. Between
Marina City from the air
them, the Marina Towers have 896 separate apartments, which are spread out over 61 floors with an additional 5-story elevator and physical plant penthouse.

These unmistakable buildings have been around since 1964, but they offer all the modern amenities you need to live in comfort and style in the big city. Marina City was an experimental development for that era as it offered all the amenities of a miniature city under one roof such as a grocery store, cleaners, a bank, restaurants, movie rental shops and a bowling alley. The buildings' unique look has made them famous in movies, commercials, album covers and more.[1]

Marina City fills an entire city block on State Street on the north bank of the Chicago River, directly across from Chicago's Loop district. The two towers contain identical floor plans. Its shape was in stark contrast with contemporary architectural which was primarily made up of straight lines and cubical apartment buildings. The cylindrical shape was chosen to have less wind pressure. The architect chose reinforced concrete instead of steel as a building material as this was the only way he could create the petal shapes of the apartments.[2]


The Marina City complex is located in Chicago's River North Neighborhood, located between North Dearborn Parkway and State Street with the river directly to the south. It’s 2 blocks west of the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue and and Chicago’s foremost shopping and nightlife district.

River North and Marina City at Night
In the mid 1800s the railroad reached the north branch of the Chicago River resulting in a rush of activity to the Near North Side. By the late 1800s, the area was highly industrialized but suffered from terrible industrial pollution, leading to its nickname of "Smokey Hollow." River North also became home to populations of Irish and Sicilian immigrants.

Following its industrial boom, River North went through a metamorphosis. Manufacturing slumped after World War II and many of the once-bustling factories were converted into dormant storerooms and warehouses. The sleepy warehouse's lasted until the 1970s, when the need for storehouses faded almost completely and the neighborhood was left with a bunch of vacant buildings that were no longer useful once they were all shut down.

Fortunately, the large, open layouts of the abandoned structures caught the eyes of architects looking to create spaces for creative endeavors. The abundance of empty warehouse space drew artists, writers and architects to the area in search of studios and lofts. River North continues today as an art center for the city due to its population of artistically talented residents and the growing number of gallery showrooms.


Marina City During Construction
The Marina City complex was designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg. Construction started in 1959 completed in 1964 at a cost of $36 million, largely financed to by the union of building janitors and elevator operators. When completed, the two towers were the tallest residential buildings as well as the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world.

Marina City was built in a joint venture with Brighton Construction Company and the James McHugh Construciton Company. James McHugh Construction Co. subsequently built Water Tower Place in 1976 and Trump Tower in 2009, both also the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world at the time.[3]

The buildings stand 179.2 meters high and have 5 elevators and 448 parking spots each. The buildings were constructed of reinforced concrete with a caisson foundations. A caisson is a shaft of concrete placed under a building column or wall and extending down to hard-pan or rock. It is typically used to permit excavation to proceed inside and also provides protection for the workers against collapse of soil. The term caisson covers a wide range of foundation structures that may be open, pneumatic, or floating type; deep or shallow; large or small; and of circular, square, or rectangular cross section.[4]

Bertrand Goldberg was born in Chicago, and trained at the Cambridge School of Landscape Architecture (now part of Harvard University). In 1932, he went to Germany to study at the Bauhaus and worked in the small office of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The civil unrest in Berlin prompted Goldberg to flee to Paris in 1933 and he returned to Chicago shortly thereafter. Upon his return home he first worked for modernist architects Keck and Keck, Paul Schweikher, and Howard Fisher before opening his own architectural office in Chicago in 1937.

Goldberg was known for innovative structural solutions to complex problems, particularly for residential, institutional, and industrial design projects. His experimental plywood boxcars, demount-able housing units for military use during and after World War II, led him to continue creating unconventional forms using ordinary materials such as plywood and concrete.

Marina City is possibly his most well known commission. The two sixty-story towers were on the river's edge, and are well known Chicago features, with striking multi-lobed columnar forms often described as "corn cobs". After the success of Marina City, Goldberg received many more large commissions for hospitals, schools, and other public institutional buildings, such as Prentice Women's Hospital for Northwestern University, the science and medical complexes for SUNY Stony Brook, as well as River City and the Hilliard Homes public housing complex in Chicago.

During his career, Goldberg also designed a rear-engine automobile, canvas houses, unique furniture, prefabricated houses, and mobile vaccine laboratories for the United States government. He collaborated on some projects with his friend and fellow 'design scientist' R. Buckminster Fuller, as well as other modernists.[5]

Dr. Ralph B. Peck (1911-2008) was brought in as foundation consultant. He was a professor emeritus of chemical engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology. Peck also worked on the Chicago subway project when he was 28 years old and would eventually be known as “the godfather of soil mechanics.”[6]

Layout and Features

Apartments at Marina City come in one of three identical floor plans, studio units or one or two bedroom apartments. The petal shaped apartments offer unique rooms layouts that can be interesting or difficult depending on the furniture you might try to accommodate. The building is now 49 years old and as such most units have been remodeled so appliances and finishes will vary widely.

However, the building does provide residents with satellite television, central heating and cooling and some units now feature in suite laundry. High speed internet has been wired into the building as well.[7]

One interesting feature is that the door plates feature a map of the stars and planets as they appeared on November 22, 1960, the day ground was broken and construction of Marina City started. The text on the lower half of the plate reads, in English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Chinese: “This building began on the 22nd day of November 1960 A.D. according to the Gregorian calendar. The planets in the heavens were as shown on this celestial map. The universal language of astronomy will permit men forever to understand and know this date. Marina City and its towers were the dream of William L. McFetridge, the planning of Charles R. Swibel, and the architecture of Bertrand Goldberg.”

Floor Plans

Marina City offers studio, one and two bedroom apartments ranging in size from 500 square feet for studios, 726 square feet for one bedroom apartments and 1150 square feet for two bedroom units.


Marina City was conceived as a city within a city which was an unusual concept in 1959. The development features numerous on-site facilities including a theatre, gym, ice rink, bowling alley, several stores and restaurants, and, of course, a marina.

In addition to the towers, comprising apartments and parking, there were numerous businesses and entertainment venues built into the development, including a 16-story 280,000 square foot office block on the north edge, a movie theater, a public pedestrian plaza, an active rail line, a marina, an ice skating rink, and a bowling alley. Much of the complex has evolved and changed over the last 49 years flavour and nature of the offerings has shifted significantly, but with only minor changes to Goldberg's design. The office building is now the Sax Hotel, and the theater is now the Chicago House of Blues concert hall. The rail line has since been abandoned, and the skating rink has been covered by a later addition that is home to the Smith and Wollensky steakhouse. Other current destinations include an upscale bowling alley, a bank, and restaurants Bin 36 and Dick's Last Resort.


Marina City Bylaws
Rentals Yes
Pets Yes
Age No

  • Marina City accepts all ages
  • It is a pet friendly building
  • Rental of units is also allowed


Being constructed in the early 1960s, Marina City was not built as a "green" building.

However, residents can contribute to a greener lifestyle by doing things such as switching to CFL or LED light bulbs for their homes, recycling as much waste as possible and by limiting the use of a car for their day to day needs.

The wealth of shops, restaurants, cafes and entertainment venues nearby mean that nearly all day to day errands can be accomplished on foot.

Easy availability of about 50 transit routes and car shares nearby mean that car ownership can be optional for residents.[8]


  • Marina City is the first building in the United States to be constructed with tower cranes.
  • Local Radio station WCFL operated out of the the office building of the Marina City of the complex.
  • Local television station WFLD, (FOX Channel 32) operated from Marina City for eighteen years until they were bought by Metromedia. WLS-TV (ABC Channel 7), WMAQ-TV (NBC Channel 5) and WBBM-TV (CBS Channel 2) had their transmitters atop Marina City until the John Hancock tower, and later Willis Tower was built.
Scene from The Hunter
  • The parking levels of Marina City were featured in Steve McQueen's last movie, The Hunter. They were used in one scene where the hero chases a criminal 15 levels up the spiral parking ramp until the villain loses control of his Pontiac Grand Prix and drives off the garage into the river.
  • The complex houses an unusual saddle-shaped auditorium, originally the Marina City theater building. It was vacant for many years before being converted into the popular House of Blues in the 1990s.
  • The first owner of the land on which Marina City is now located was Dr. Alexander Wolcott, Jr. He bought the lot at an auction in 1830 for $685.
  • Famous Marina City residents include former White House press secretary James Brady, former NBC News correspondent John Palmer, singer John Denver, Yvonne Daniels, the first female disc jockey at WLS Chicago, and Max Robinson, the first African-American network news anchor in the U.S.


  2. Chicago - Architecture & Cityscape
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Emporis
  5. Wikipedia
  6. Marina City Online
  7. Dk Condo
  8. Walk Score

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