River City

800 S Wells St Chicago

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> River City is a residential building designed by Bertrand Goldberg, to whose Marina City it bears clear affinities, and was completed in 1986.

> The building has 449 units, a 50,000 square foot health club with full-size pool, a 1-acre rooftop park, 10-foot enclosed atrium skylight, and a 70-slip marina with a bubbler system that prevents freezing and permits year-round use.

> Presently, the building is de-converting from condos back into rental properties.

> The developer announced plans to paint the interior cement atrium white, raising objections citing Goldberg's intention and Brutalist design method.

> Brutalism derives its very name from its materials: the French term béton brut for raw concrete.

Utopian Ideals in an Urban Setting

River City is the second incarnation of architect Bertrand Goldberg's vision to build housing that went far beyond the ideals of just a high rise apartment house.

After Marina City was built, Goldberg sought to further develop his city within a city concept with River City, which was completed in 1986. His original designs laid out a much taller vision - 72-stories of mixed-used buildings. The City of Chicago's Plan Commission denied permission for the original design, and Goldberg went through a number of redesigns before arriving at the current structure. Though he had plans to expand it, he was unable to find financing for additions to the building.

An Architectural Answer to Modern Life

“Mixed-use is the essence of the future city within a city-it is vastly different from development of commercial real estate. Mixed use is not the confusion of people doing a lot of different things at random. It is living and working in an environment that clearly supports the actions of living and working separately and together. The environment is planned to promote living and working separately, and yet to bring them together clearly and to their advantage.” Bertrand Goldberg -- 'The Critical Mass of Urbanism'

Goldberg believed that the modern urbanite wanted all city services within arm's reach. So River City was a move toward that end: Tennis courts, commercial and office space, health spas were all part of the design.

Did you know?

Goldberg's initial vision also included medical clinics and classrooms. It was built on the motto of 'Why go out if you don't have to?'. These elements were part of the design that did not make it through the city's bureaucratic process of approval.

Cover image source: Sam Howzit, CC BY 2.0.

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