Best Reason to Appreciate the Serene Architecture That Lines Much of Lower Lincoln Park

The Conservatory

Critics' Picks

Sometimes we don't value a skyline until it's ruined. Ugly and completely out of scale, the Conservatory is as crass a building as was ever put up in Chicago. Thirty years after it opened, I drive by on Lake Shore Drive still astonished that the gentry of Lincoln Park would inflict such a—well, to borrow from Prince Charles, carbuncle on themselves. Construction of the 29-story Conservatory was cursed: It began in 1973 but the original owners went bankrupt in 1975, and the unfinished shell sat there for five years while neighbors complained about breeding rats. Eventually a new group of developers took over, and the Conservatory opened in 1982. By the late 80s the building's condo owners were in court suing the designers, developers, and builders over alleged construction defects. But make no mistake—every nearby building benefits by comparison. The stately Belden-Stratford next door and the nearby Lincoln Park Conservatory look like vintage masterpieces. Oh, and across the street from the Conservatory is a handsome statue of Shakespeare. He averts his gaze.

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