|Town or city|
|Client||Illinois state government|
|Design and construction|
The James R. Thompson Center (JRTC) is located at 100 W. Randolph Street in the Loop district of Chicago and houses offices of the Illinois state government. The building serves as a secondary capitol for the State of Illinois in the most populated city and county of the state.
The building opened in May 1985 as the State of Illinois Center. It was renamed in 1993 to honor former Illinois Republican Governor James R. Thompson. The property takes up the entire block bound by Randolph, Lake, Clark and LaSalle Streets, one of the 35 full-size city blocks within Chicago's Loop. In front of the Thompson Center is a sculpture, Monument With Standing Beast, by Jean Dubuffet. The Thompson Center is sometimes referred to as the State of Illinois Building.
The Thompson Center was designed by Helmut Jahn of Murphy/Jahn now called JAHN Architects. It opened to mixed reviews by critics, ranging from "outrageous" to "wonderful". The color of the street-level panels were compared to tomato soup. The 17-story, all-glass exterior curves and slopes facing a plaza on the southeast corner of the property. The design simultaneity looks forward with advanced architectural tectonics (of the time) and back to recapture the grandeur of large public spaces. Visitors to the Thompson Center's interior can see all 17 floors layered partway around the building's immense skylit atrium. The open-plan offices on each floor are supposed to carry the message of "an open government in action."
Originally, the design called for curved, insulated (double paned) glass panels, but these were found to be prohibitively expensive. Flat, insulated glass had been suggested, but was dismissed by Jahn. Single-paned (non-insulated), curved glass panels were eventually used, and resulted in the need for a more expensive air conditioning system, which remains very costly to operate, and is insufficient on hot days; internal temperatures have reached as high as 90 °F (32 °C). The building is also bitterly cold in the winter; in its early years, ice formed on the interior of some of the wall panels. The marble floor of the atrium initially developed unsightly water stains, an issue which has since been resolved.
The Clark/Lake 'L' station, the second busiest in the system, is housed between the Thompson Center and the 203 N. LaSalle building across the street. Orange, Green, Blue, Pink, Purple and Brown Line trains stop at the center. Three tunnels of the Chicago Pedway enter the building's food-court concourse, connecting from to 203 North LaSalle Street, the Chicago Title and Trust Company and Chicago City Hall.
The sculpture at the front entrance by French artist Jean Dubuffet sets the tone for this building that houses a tremendous art collection. The collection includes nineteen specially commissioned artworks funded by the State of Illinois Art-in-Architecture Program. The building also has over 150 of the state's 600 works collected under the Percent for Art program. Under this program 0.5% of the money designated for construction of state-funded public buildings is used for the purchase of art. The Illinois Artisan's shop is also housed inside the building.
When he first came to office, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed selling the building to assuage the state budget. The proposal was heavily criticized. Lawmakers at first agreed to the plan, but later a $200 million mortgage was agreed to instead, payable over 10 years. The plan was declared unconstitutional by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in June 2004. The plan was set aside, although it had already cost the state $532,000 in legal fees.
In 2015, and again in 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner also proposed selling the property, and a legislative committee to explore his request was announced by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan in February 2017.
The location was previously the location of the Sherman House Hotel operated by Ernie Byfield. The hotel was demolished in 1973 and the site was used as a parking lot until the Thompson Center was constructed.