James R. Thompson State of Illinois Center

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The James R. Thompson State of Illinois Center houses nearly 70 state agencies, commissions and boards in addition to the Governor's Office on the 16th floor. The building was commissioned by Illinois Governor James R. Thompson (1977-1991) to replace Chicago's old seat of state government, the State of Illinois Building, located just across LaSalle Street. When it opened in 1985, architect Helmut Jahn's eye-grabbing, post-modernist design and immense budget overruns subjected the building and its sponsors to much ridicule. Clad in blue, salmon and silver panels, this 17-story glass and steel behemoth still possesses one of the most striking exteriors in the Loop (compare it to the less-is-more modernism of the Daley Civic Center located diagonally across the Clark and Randolph intersection).

Occupying nearly an entire city block, the building approximates a square before fading into a broad curving facade that yields space to a small plaza containing Jean Dubuffet's white and black sculpture "Monument With Standing Beast." For another remarkable view, step inside the center. From ground level, the circular atrium soars the entire 17-story height of the building and is accented by two banks of elevators, clip-on staircases and see-through escalators. Or take the elevators to the 16th floor, hold onto your stomach and look down. The first two floors and a basement level concourse are devoted to commercial and public use. They include a food court, a post office, men's and women's clothing shops, an art gallery featuring Illinois artists and access to CTA Brown, Green, Orange, Blue and Purple train lines. Frequent performances, art shows and fairs are also held in the public atrium.