Category Archives: Chicago

Foundations for a Tall Building

I have already posted a couple of times about the construction next to our old apartment in Chicago.  The demolition of the Sun Times building was here and the removal and replacement of Wabash Avenue was here.  This was all associated with the construction of the new tower.  Since the plot on which this tower was going to be built was pretty small, it couldn’t be a traditional steel frame skyscraper.  The provide the stiffness needed for such a slender tower, it had to be constructed of concrete.

This required a substantial foundation.  First was the need to clear out the old foundations.  The Sun Times building had been constructed on top of a ton of piles that were timber poles driven in to the ground.  These all had to come out before anything else could be done.  Tons of them would be lying around at various times as they were pulled out prior to being taken away.

Next was the need to drill down for the new piles.  I seem to recall that they went down about 130 feet but my memory may be off on that.  Some of the piles were really wide while others were slightly narrower.  Larger drills would take out the earth and then steels cylinders would be inserted in to the whole.  Rebar reinforcements would be inserted before the concrete could be poured in to make the final pile.  This process was repeated across the site over a course of months.

All of this was the precursor to the main foundation.  The building was built on top of a concrete raft.  This sat on top of all of the piles.  It was a single pour.  The whole pour took about 48 hours.  A steady stream of trucks brought the concrete in from a mixing plant a couple of miles away.  The mix was a special high strength one and each truck was tested as it arrived.  Pouring such a volume of concrete continuously required great care because the material generates heat as it sets and there was constant monitoring to ensure that the overall temperature remained within range.  Once they started, they couldn’t stop.

The whole thing apparently went to plan and the result was a large concrete base on which the rest of the construction effort would build.  After months of preparation, finally it was time for things to start going up again.

Building a Tower Crane

Tower cranes are ubiquitous in big cities.  The only way to construct tall buildings, there are the sign of a prosperous city when there are lots of them.  They can be a nuisance when you are taking photos of a skyline of course since they interrupt the flow of a cityscape.  You seen them all the time but you don’t often get to see how one is assembled.  When we were watching the tower construction across from our building in Chicago, we got to see the cranes being put together.

The first thing that is needed is a big crane!  Got to have a crane to make a crane!  The base was put in place and then the cab was lifted into place.  From this, the elements of both booms were lifted and attached.  Then the counterbalance weights could be added along with the machinery to do the lifting work.  It was fun to watch it all go together and to see the guys walking around on the structure once it was in place including all of the bracing elements.  Once the crane is complete, there is a sleeve section that allows the inner section to be slide up and a new section to be inserted.

Two cranes were built for this project.  They were both within the footprint of the building so it grew around them and they grew above it.  There was never terribly much of the crane exposed above the building so it was well supported.  One of the crane operators on this project used to take his camera up.  He had a great selection of images from up there with all sorts of things going on a round him and some incredibly variable weather.  I will have to see whether those images are still available online.

Ferraris on State Street

There have been plenty of posts about sports cars from our time in California and Washington.  However, when we lived in Chicago, there were always a ton of exotic cars around the city.  These would be in regular use rather than part of organized gatherings.  However, one weekend, there was a gathering of Ferraris on North State Street.  I had completely forgotten about this until recently working through some old shots.

There was a combination of new cars with some older but no less exotics examples.  An F40 was there along with Testarossas.  Having this on a busy street in the center of the city seems pretty odd now but it was definitely cool at the time.  Here are some of the nice motors that were on show that day.

Goodbye to Wabash – Before It Returned

The demolition of the Sun-Times building was discussed in this post.  The building wasn’t the only thing to go, though.  The creation of the new tower meant that the street needed to be rebuild around it.  Consequently, a section of Wabash Avenue was completely taken apart before being rebuilt.  This meant our street became a dead end for a long time.  You could walk through on a temporary footbridge that they installed (which was good for seeing what was going on) but road traffic went elsewhere.  This made getting a cab a lot harder!

The roadway was elevated, built upon a series of steel girders.  The surface was drilled out and the structure taken down.  There was a lot of construction for what would ultimately sit under the new roadway and for the access to the new building.  Then new supporting structures were erected.  Finally, a new roadbed was installed.  Before the finish was laid on top of this, you could see the elements that would be contained within it.  Drainage elements as well as the central dividers that would be filled with plants could be identified.  There was also going to be a concrete pump to support the building construction and the exhaust port for this was built into the new road in the center.

Eventually the new road was completed and the traffic was free to come through again.  Since everyone had found new routes, it was actually quiet for quite a while until people got used to having the road available again.  Once it was complete, it was quickly hard to remember what it had been like when closed.

Sun Times Demolition

When we moved to Chicago, our apartment overlooked the Chicago Sun-Times building on Wabash Avenue alongside the Chicago River.  This plot was sold off for development with a large tower being built on its site.  The construction that followed will be another post but this one relates to the demolition process.  The view from our window provided a great view of the tearing down of the old building.  It didn’t hurt that much of it was done during the Chicago winter, but I could watch from the comfort of our living room.

The building came down pretty quickly.  Crews were using jack hammers to drill out the concrete flooring of each level and the machines that these were mounted on could also pull over the wall sections once cutting torches had taken out key elements of them.  There was plenty of cutting going on with torches taken out structure and piping.  This didn’t always go smoothly with more than one occasion when the cutting set fire to something and the fire department came to deal with it.  A lot of water from the hoses would pour out of the spaces in the walls and, given the low temperatures, lots of icicles would result.

There weren’t too many floors in the building with the lowest levels being where the printing presses had once been.  The whole thing came down quickly.  It wasn’t an attractive structure so we weren’t so sad to see it go.  However, since it was low, it gave us a good view across the river.  The new building would be 92 floors tall and was going to take out a chunk of our view but such is the way of things when you live downtown in a city that is constantly evolving.

Air to Air With United Jets – Or Is It?

When putting together some images for a group online that I am involved with, a dug out a couple of shots of jets departing O’Hare I shot years back.  When coming off 22L, some of the jets make an early turn to the south and you can get a view of them that is either quite level with the wing line or slightly above.  When shooting them, they are climbing so it is obvious what you were shooting.  However, as I looked at these shots, it occurred to me that they looked a lot like an air to air position except the angles were wrong because of the climb.  Since I had shot quite tightly, re-cropping the shot required some Photoshop work.

Taking the image out of Lightroom and in to Photoshop, I selected the crop tool and rotated the image to be the sort of angle that an air to air shot might be.  Doing this crops off the nose and tail of the jet.  However, one feature of the crop tool in Photoshop is that, if you then drag the edges of the tool back out, you can expand the canvas size.  You now have the whole plane in shot but have added some white space in each corner where no image previously existed.

It is a simple task to then use Content Aware Fill to add sky back in to these areas.  The result is a shot that looks almost as if you had been flying in formation at altitude.  Would you have spotted it?  Having done it with an A320, I then had a go with a 757.  The light angle makes it look a bit like we are flying along towards a setting sun.  I was rather pleased with the trick.

Whose Trains Are These?

Chicago was a stop off on a work trip.  We were on final approach to O’Hare and I was looking out of the window at the industrial areas that surround the airport.  There are rail tracks scattered throughout these areas so seeing trains is not a surprise.  However, I was a little caught out by what appeared to be some old Metra commuter cars parked up in one space.  They have clearly been out of use for a while.  If anyone knows who they belong to, please let me know.

Chicago Suburbs From Above

Dropping in to O’Hare you get to overfly lots of neighborhoods.  The lower you get, the more you see each individual house.  I find myself wondering about each of the house and who lives there.  Since they clearly have a lot of planes flying over them every day, do they get annoyed by my passage or are they oblivious to each passing jet given the frequency with which they appear?

Astar Over My Head

These shots are from a few years ago.  I had the privilege to spend a day with the late Alan Purwin during the filming for one of the Transformers movies in Chicago.  I got to fly with them on some of the shoot but I also was on the ground when they went off on part of the filming.  I put myself directly ahead of the Astar when they took off and Alan buzzed me.  I noticed when going through the images that the cameraman was tracking me with the stabilized mount on the nose as they flew over the top.

Rusty Discoloration

The Riverwalk along the Chicago River takes you under the bridges.  Each bridge is on a cycle for refurbishment so, while they are repainted regularly, they do progressively show signs of weathering.  Some of them are rather old structures with the iron and riveting being something of a period long gone.  I stopped for a while to look at the different colors that the gentle corrosion created.  Nothing too drastic but an interesting contrast with the original paint color.