Skyscraper histories often focus on the development of the skeletal iron frame as a key development, but this was paralleled by the equally important evolution of reinforced concrete as a competing structural material. Concrete’s plasticity and its monolithic nature have allowed a wide variety of architectural forms and engineering approaches. It has sometimes worked with steel framing to achieve great heights, but concrete has also often taken on skyscrapers’ gravity and wind loads on its own.
In preparation for the Fall 2023 exhibition In Situ: The Modern Concrete Skyscraper, the Museum is launching an evolving lecture series that will examine key experiments in concrete construction. The series begins on June 13th at 6pm ET with a talk by architect Geoffrey Goldberg on Marina City in Chicago, the remarkable pair of 61-story cylindrical towers completed in 1964. Goldberg will describe how that city’s famous twin apartment towers used concrete toward important social and political ends in the early 1960s.
Intended to spark a renaissance in downtown living, Bertrand Goldberg’s design relied on concrete’s formal agility to achieve a pioneering example of mixed-use urbanism, combining commercial, residential, and retail functions within its cylindrical towers and expressive plaza buildings. Relying on techniques borrowed from the Midwest’s long tradition of slip-form grain elevator construction and on innovative formwork systems developed by the contractor, Marina City remains one of the city’s most notable and recognizable developments—and a foil to Chicago’s ubiquitous steel-framed boxes.
The program will be introduced by Thomas Leslie, guest-curator for the exhibition In Situ, who will also engage in comment and conversation with Geoff Goldberg.
Geoffrey Goldberg has practiced for more than 30 years in Chicago as an architect and urban designer. Along with his own practice, he has taught architectural design and theory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The son of architect Bertrand Goldberg, Geoff is a native Chicagoan. He received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago (‘77), and an M.Arch. from Harvard University.
Thomas Leslie is Visiting Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he researches the integration of building sciences and arts, both historically and in contemporary practice. He is the author of Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934 and its sequel Chicago Skyscrapers, 1934-1986 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2013 and 2023). He is also the author of Beauty's Rigor: Patterns of Production in the Work of Pier Luigi Nervi (University of Illinois Press, 2017).