OHC2015 Dazzles but Aon is the Star of the Show

Chicago skyline

The banners have been rolled up, the standards furled, and the little golf pencils returned to that special circle of hell where the eraserless little bastards come from.  Another Open House Chicago is officially in the books.

The annual event — pulled off by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and a squadron of volunteers — entertained, amused, and amazed tens of thousands of architecturally curious argonauts.  Exact figures won’t be available for some time, but our estimates put it somewhere between Sunday night’s Cubs NLCS game and a U2 concert at Soldier Field.

The weather cooperated brilliantly, with mostly clear skies helping legions of amateur photographers feed their Instagram accounts, while below-average temperatures provided relief for those who chose to exercise their legs instead of their Ventra cards.

While a few venues were so popular there were hour-long waits even for Priority Access passholders, complaints were few and limited to the inane. Like suburb dwellers who whined about parking meters, or one woman who lost her cool over the wristband requirement at Eight O Five.

But what most people couldn’t stop talking about, even when touring other locations, was their visit to the Aon Center.

Chicago skyline with Two Prudential Plaza

Nope. Nothing to see here. Move along, citizens.

Several months ago an idea was floated to convert one of the floors of the Aon Center into an observation deck.  Naysayers were baying at the moon about what a terrible idea it was.  This weekend’s event proved that not only is an Aon Center observation deck a great idea, but that those naysayers have zero idea what they’re talking about.

The views were spectacular, and changed throughout the day with the shift of the sun.   Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower and 360 Chicago at the John Hancock Center each have two sides with good views, and two sides with mediocre views.  At the Aon Center, there are no bad views all the way around.  As any real estate agent will tell you, it’s all about the location.  Aon is in the middle of the city’s skyscraper forest, while the other two towers are on the fringes looking in.

Piedmont Office Realty Trust embraced the Open House Chicago event in a way the building’s previous owners never did.  It cleaned out the entire 71st floor of the tower, and put up a number of informative posters.  Those posters went mostly ignored as mesmerized people spilled out of the elevator and fast-shuffled toward the windows like toddlers in onesies aching for a big swirly circus lollypop.

Worries that Chicago’s third-tallest building’s vertical concrete exterior fins would serve as obstructions turned out to be unfounded.  In fact, for some views, they served to counteract the glare of the sun on the windows, giving Twitter fans more to tweet, and Facebookers more books to face.  Or something like that.

Another advantage an Aon Center observation deck would have over the existing 360 Chicago space is the fact that cell phone service on the 71st floor of the Aon Center is flawless.  Because of an annual pass, for much of 2013 this blog was written at the Lavazza atop the Hancock Center, and cell phone reception was as reliable as a meth addict’s ’78 Buick Skylark.

If you weren’t able to make it to Aon Center during your Open House Chicago scavenger hunt, enjoy the images below.

Grant Park

Chicago River and Lake Shore Drive bridge with sailboats

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline with Two Prudential Plaza

Disclosure:  The Chicago Architecture Foundation provided priority access passes to the Chicago Architecture Blog which helped facilitate this article.




Author: Editor

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

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