As It Happens

Chicago buildings on this landmark Wilco album on track for city protection

Marina City -- also known as the Corn Cobbs has been granted preliminary landmark status by the city of Chicago.
(Diego Delso)

Just like the 2002 Wilco album they grace, Chicago's Marina City was experimental and ground-breaking.

Locals know the buildings as the "Corn Cobbs" for their distinctive cylindrical shape, with each floor extending from a solid concrete core dug deep into the bedrock. 

Quoted on PRI, resident Steven Dahlman calls it, "Kind of a quirky, nutty place to live."

To indie rock fans, a sight of Marina City evokes only one thing: the cover of Wilco's seminal 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

The album shows the distinctive towers rising in front of a blank sky. 

Marina City was built in 1960, designed by Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg. It was an architectural as well as a social experiment: an attempt to build a city within a city, and a home to people of different races and economic backgrounds.    

That utopian vision didn't quite pan out. According to the Chicago Tribune, "When Ebony magazine profiled the complex in 1964, African American tenants occupied only six of the 896 apartments."

Even as the towers were dwarfed by the ever-growing Chicago Skyline, the unique architecture of Marina City still demanded attention.

It was once one of the tallest residential buildings in Chicago, but soon lost that title. Steven Dahlman tells PRI, "I know a number of people who've lost their view and they're really a little philosophical about it." 

Now, the towers have been granted preliminary landmark status in the city -- which could lead to their permanent protection. 

Like the landmark album whose cover they grace, Wilco's Yankee, Hotel, Foxtrot has also stood the test of time. 

The band Wilco, in their 2002 iteration.