Genuine Goldberg: Genius or gadfly?

ChicagoAs in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.

My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!


Who is Bertrand Goldberg? And what makes him such a Chicago original?

I first discovered Goldberg through my fascination with Marina City. You may know these twin towers as the “corncob buildings.” But what you may not know is that the architect who designed them (as well as River City and the Prentice Women’s Hospital – which was demolished in 2014), was Bertrand Goldberg.

"Marina City" image by Flickr user Bob Vonderau
“Marina City” image by Flickr user Bob Vonderau
"Marina City over the Chicago River" image by Flickr user Justin Brown
“Marina City over the Chicago River” image by Flickr user Justin Brown

Goldberg was an architect who trained at the Cambridge School of Landscape Architecture and Germany’s Bauhaus, and worked for Ludwig Mies van der Rohe during his time in Germany. He returned to Chicago to work for Keck and Keck (among other modernist architects), and eventually opened his own architectural firm.

According to

“Goldberg believe[d] that circular buildings serve activity better and help create community. He also claim[ed] that circular buildings provide more efficient wind resistance, more direct mechanical distribution and more usable interior square footage. Complaining that many architects structurally misuse concrete, he created curvilinear experimentations in concrete shell structure.”

I’m not sure how this quite works out, in terms of interior square footage, as most of the spaces inside Marina City are wedge-shaped (click here to see a floor plan), which seems like it might make furnishing a condo rather difficult. But I like the idea of a circular building contributing to community-building.

I also wonder if maybe part of the mystique of the Marina Towers comes from the similarity between the circular high-rise and a more traditional castle turret?

Marina City

Whatever the reason for their popularity, Goldberg always intended the sixty-story, 588-foot towers to be of mixed-use, including both offices and residential space, as well as a theater, ice skating rink, bowling alley and – surprise! – a marina.

Each tower contains:

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  • 18 parking levels
  • 40 floors of condos
  • 1 floor for laundry and storage
  • 1 observation deck, and
  • “a three-story mechanical penthouse” – I’m not entirely sure what this means; does the penthouse rotate? If so, that would be quite unique!


Though the residential floors are obviously limited to residents only, most of the building is open to the public, including seven bars (one of which is a House of Blues) and seven restaurants.

You can also stay at Marina City as a temporary resident, by booking a room at Hotel Chicago. For the truly splashy, try the Jake and Elwood Suites – named after Jim Belushi and Dan Akroyd’s characters in The Blues Brothers.

Additional Resources

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What do you think?

Was Bertrand Goldberg a genius, or just ahead of his time?

Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z

Want to read the book I wrote last April, based on my A to Z posts about San Diego? I’m giving away two paperback copies of San Diego From A to Z over at Goodreads, so click here and enter to win! AND I’m giving away one free ebook copy every day until the end of April to a random commenter here on the blog. Leave a comment every day for another chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

San Diego from A to Z by Laura Roberts

San Diego from A to Z

by Laura Roberts

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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