A film by Nathan Eddy
Starship Chicago II
1. June 2023
Documentary filmmaker Nathan Eddy's sequel to Starship Chicago, his 2017 film on Helmut Jahn's James R. Thompson Center, is available to stream on the MAS Context website from June 1 to 18, 2023.
When Eddy's first documentary on the Thompson Center was released, the future of the Helmut Jahn-designed building that opened in 1985 as the State of Illinois Center was uncertain. That year, 2017, Landmarks Illinois put the 17-story building on its “most endangered” list — where it would remain until the end of 2021, when it was saved from demolition. The preservation victory followed proposals for its reuse, more endangered lists, and years of drama over its potential sale as a teardown structure.
When Jahn died unexpectedly in May 2021, the building's future was still up on the air. Today, the Thompson Center is owned by developer Prime Group and set to be renovated as Google's Chicago headquarters. Per the developer's website, “The 1.3 million square foot property will be completely gut-renovated including replacement of the curtainwall, all MEP/FP systems, and floor by floor office and amenity finishes.” Furthermore, the familiar atrium and sunken retail area are set to be redesigned and expanded — all to be completed in the first half of 2025.
Starship Chicago II features interviews with architects, preservationists, educators, and developers over the myriad issues around the building's past and its future — the latter still uncertain, at least from the perspective of its architural character. As the MAS Context website states, “The project raises fundamental questions about the urban environment: What is the future of public space in the city? How does a change in aesthetics impact architectural integrity? To whom does the city belong? What gives a building soul?”
Watch Starship Chicago (2017) below or on the Vimeo channel of Nathan Eddy.