Plans to Rebuild the Thompson Center – Google Will Keep the Original Architecture

The Thompson Center –  or, as it should now be known as, the Loop Googleplex — has a future without completely breaking loose from its past. Some major renovations are on the way before Google employees come to fill up the office spaces in 2026, but the feel of the building, as well as most of its original architectural traits will be retained.

Google has acquired the building two years ago

In 2022, Google announced plans to buy the Thompson Center for $105 million and use it as a second Chicago HQ to complement its Fulton Market offices. Now, almost 18 months later, before work is scheduled to start in 2024, Google has released renderings via its Keyword blog showing what the downtown landmark building will look like after its $280 million redevelopment is complete.
The company’s Chicago site leader, Karen Sauder, recently published renderings of the Loop Googleplex, and these look almost the same as the original Thompson Center. 
Although the City of Chicago granted permission to demolish the structure last October, Google is striving to maintain the building’s unique form and is working with the original architecture firm JAHN on the building’s multi-million dollar redesign.

Google wants to keep the integrity of the original Jahn design

Google aims for the new mixed-use building to keep the integrity of Helmut Jahn’s iconic structure, while enhancing several key components that kept the building from environmental efficiency. To achieve Google’s carbon-free aims, the building’s facade and internal systems have to be completely replaced. The new triple-pane glass exterior will improve both the thermal performance of the building and the comfort of those inside by requiring less energy to heat and cool. New glass features will improve the building aesthetics, while maximizing natural daylight and views.

In the blog post, Karen Sauder, Google Chicago Site Lead said, “Covered terraces along three levels of the southeast perimeter will offer new greenspaces. With more natural light, access to greenspace, and biophilic design elements that borrow from nature, the original design’s ode to transparency and openness will live on.

When we set out to redevelop the Thompson Center with The Prime Group and Capri Investment Group, it was important to us that we honor the postmodern legacy of the building…Not only is it a sustainable way to create offices, but it also honors the history of the communities we call home.

For the Thompson Center, we’re working with the building’s original architects at Jahn to help bring the design into the 21st century while maintaining its iconic form. The Thompson Center’s signature 17-story, light-filled atrium will remain. Additionally, the covered colonnade at the base of the building will be redesigned to allow for an enhanced ground floor experience, including opportunities for more food and beverage retail and seasonal activations of the plaza.”

A modern, fun city to be in, where people stay connected to new technology

Chicago is a vibrant, modern city, which strives to remain anchored in its tradition while also improving life quality for its inhabitants and embracing modern and even futuristic trends. It has been named the Best Big City in the U.S. for the 7th time by the Condé Nast Traveler readers, through the magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. The Windy City has also been nominated amongst the top ten most fun cities to be in, and its daring architecture represents one of the city’s attractions.
When it opened, the Thompson Center was intended to be a new kind of gathering space for Chicagoans, with it being the only building in the city where six L train lines converge — connecting Chicago’s South, West, and North sides. With a new and improved CTA experience, the Thompson Center will continue to serve commuters and will be perfectly positioned to welcome current and future employees from every corner of Chicago. “And our hope is that this reimagined building becomes something more: a thriving community destination for all Chicagoans in a revitalized Loop neighborhood”, Sauer added.

Chicagoans will soon see construction activity at the site of the Thompson Center

As Karen Sauder stated,  Google has called Chicago home since 2000, and company officials are proud that their growth here over the past two decades has contributed to the city emerging as one of the nation’s most diverse and vibrant tech hubs. “Chicago is not only where many of our partners and customers across the Midwest are based, the city is also home to a deep and growing bench of world-class researchers in emerging fields like AI. It’s why we continue to invest here, and why last year we announced our intent to purchase the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago after it’s redeveloped”, Sauder said.

She also added that Chicagoans will soon see construction activity at the site of the Thompson Center, where fencing will go up around the perimeter. Before that happens, the company wanted to provide a first look at their plans for this iconic building.

The Shedd Aquarium – another big project with recently unveiled plans

The Thompson Center’s renewal renderings are not the only ones to hit the market. August 2nd 2023, Shedd Aquarium gave more details about its “Experience Evolution” $500 million plan for new galleries, learning spaces, and transformations to ensure the beloved Chicago institution will thrive for another century. Shedd Aquarium first unveiled its strategic vision January 11th 2022, and made more details public last summer.  The plan meant to ensure a  transformational investment in Chicago communities and aquatic ecosystems is a Centennial Commitment that will require half a billion dollars and eight years to complete.  

The $500 million 8-year project will “prepare Shedd for the next 100 years, transforming the aquarium’s historic galleries, accelerating aquatic science and research, and equitably expanding access to nature for all.”

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