Separated at Birth: Chicago’s Newest Skyscraper Isn’t All That New


Sowwah Square (left) and 150 North Riverside (right)

Sowwah Square (left) and 150 North Riverside (right).  Both by Goettsch Partners.

We knew there was something familiar about 150 North Riverside.

150 North Riverside drawing

150 North Riverside drawing

When the design of the new skyscraper proposed to balance between the Amtrak tracks along the Chicago River just north of the Boeing Headquarters was unveiled last week, it seemed very familiar.  It reminded us of Qube… but not really. Or maybe the Rainier Tower… but not on top.  Nothing was quite a good enough match.  Until now.

Call it “recycling.”  Call it “already proven.”  Call it “2.0.”  We’ve seen this before.

150 North Riverside is Sowwah Square.

Less than two weeks ago, the public relations firm for friends-of-the-blog, Goettsch Partners, sent us some photos of the architecture firm’s Sowwah Square project in Abu Dhabi.  Goettsch won Four of the project’s five buildings are dead ringers for 150 North Riverside.

Sowwah Square in Abu Dhabi.  Photograph © Lester Ali, courtesy of Goettsch Partners.

Sowwah Square in Abu Dhabi. Photograph © Lester Ali, courtesy of Goettsch Partners.

And they should be — the whole lot of them were designed by Chicago-based Goettsch.  Heck, we even posted pictures of the model in the Goettsch offices when we published the article What’s Going Up at Goettsch Partners back in March of 2012.

Earlier this month, Sowwah Square was named Best Tall Building in the Middle East and Africa for 2013 by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

So, even though Chicago is getting sloppy seconds on this one, it’s at least award-winning sloppy seconds.

To be clear, we’re not blaming Goettsch for repurposing its hard work elsewhere.  Lots of buildings have cousins all over the place.  The Brooklyn Bridge in New York has its Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati.  Chicago’s Chase Tower has a doppleganger in Tokyo called the Sompo Japan Building.  And there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of black-and-white striped generic octagonal office buildings littering America’s mid-tier markets from Houston, Texas to Long Beach, California.

Next week we’ll find out the details of the 150 North Riverside plan, and see how Goettsch modifies its Arabian skyscraper to fit the needs of Chicago.  Maybe a lot.  Maybe only a little.  But presumably, at least all those sun shades hanging off the sides of the building will go bye-bye.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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