Lunchtime Tourist

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September 1, 2003 // UPDATED 11:03 am - April 30, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

A guide to art, architecture and cultural curiosities

The IDS Center, 80 S. 8th St. Proudly protecting its title as "the tallest building Downtown," the IDS Center reigns over the skyline as an architectural jewel. When it was built in 1973, the 51-story building towered over its nearest competition -- the Foshay Tower at 821 Marquette Ave., a mere 32 stories tall.

Investors Diversified Services (IDS) was incorporated in 1894. By 1972, it was the largest financial institution of its kind in the world. For their new headquarters, they hired East Coast architect Philip Johnson, who was quickly rising to fame for designing contemporary high-rise office buildings.

Philip Johnson was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1906. As a child, he traveled regularly with his mother to Europe to study art and architecture. His extensive travels and undergraduate degree in philosophy and the classics landed him a job at New York's Museum of Modern Art as a curator of architecture and design. One of his early projects was to plan an exhibit documenting the new architecture going up in Europe in the 1920s. Johnson is credited as coining the term "International School" for that exhibit.

While he maintained ties to MOMA, Johnson returned to Harvard for a degree in architecture. He designed his first building at age 36. By 1979, Johnson was a world-renowned architect and received the first Pritzker Architecture Prize -- architecture's equivalent of the Pulitzer.

The IDS Center was an early landmark for Johnson, but his controversial AT&T Tower (1984) in New York City with its Chippendale top is credited as beginning the post-modern era of architecture.

The IDS Center was the first building Downtown to have skyway connections on all four sides -- to Marquette and Nicollet Avenues and South 7th and 8th Streets. Second-level pedestrians converge on the balcony overlooking Downtown's epicenter -- the Crystal Court. The block contains the 18-story Marquette Hotel, 710 Marquette Ave., and the faceted octagonal tower that dominates our skyline.

LUNCH TIP: Pay some respect to our 30-year old skyscraper over lunch today from the balcony at Basil's overlooking the Crystal Court.

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