If one must go downtown for some unpleasant bureaucratic purpose, Chicago still has some delights to compensate. One of these is Calder’s “The Universe”, a mechanical sculpture inside the entrance of the Willis building.
Years ago, when this was still called the Sears Tower, there was a bizarre air current on the west side of the building, and on windy days people could barely walk past. You could see them bent nearly horizontal as they battled the wind.
Then an additional curved entrance was built and the wind currents seemed to be defeated.
When I returned to Chicago, this building was surrounded by Jersey barriers. As the tallest building in Chicago, someone was convinced there was a terrorist threat against it. Now the barriers are gone, and while this has never been a well-loved building, it does have its charm.
The Calder is down the stairs.
Calder himself was said to have been in town for the grand unveiling of his sculpture. His reported words, “Shall we crank it up?”
Update: the sculpture is apparently the subject of a lawsuit.
October 5, 2010
In July, officials with Sears notified the investor group that they were moving to buy back the multi-piece mobile at half its appraised value as allowed under a 1994 agreement, according to the lawsuit filed by the owners last week in Cook County Circuit Court.
Chicago attorney George Collins, who represents the investor group, indicated that Sears officials said they wanted to move the sculpture out of the tower but would not specify where it might be relocated. The group has asked a judge to block the purchase, arguing that the buy-back agreement was terminated long ago.
“We believe it is part of the building and part of Chicago,” declared Collins, who said the Willis owners estimate it would cost roughly $250,000 to remove the artwork.
“This is not like picking up a suitcase. This is quite a big thing,” Collins said.