Global architecture firm Goettsch Partners (GP) has announced the culmination of a major renovation campaign for historic Chicago Union Station, with the recent completion of the Great Hall Restoration. This $22 million project for Amtrak, which took more than three years to complete, is the latest in a series of major redesign and restoration projects by Goettsch Partners that started in 2010. Originally designed by renowned architecture firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the 1925 Great Hall suffered water leakage and deterioration due to flaws in its original design, and was in need of substantial repairs undertaken in this significant project.


To address the needed work, the design team renovated the station’s iconic, 219-foot-long skylight, which experienced extensive moisture damage over the past several decades. To restore the cast-iron skylight assembly while maintaining its historic appearance, the Goettsch Partners team, led by Leonard Koroski, FAIA, LEED AP, designed an energy-efficient, modern skylight above the original structure. Supported 5 feet above the restored cast-iron skylight, the new high-performance skylight of steel and 858 panes of clear, high-efficiency glass protects the landmark building while brightening the Great Hall interiors with 50 percent more natural daylight than before.


Other work designed by GP included structural improvements, new plumbing, plaster repair, restored ornamentation, and new lighting. “Essential to our vision for this project was preserving the historic design features of the building while making necessary improvements and repairs to stabilize this landmark for the long term,” said GP’s Koroski, who is noted for preservation and adaptive reuse of historic structures including the iconic Wrigley Building and the Civic Opera Building in Chicago as well as Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Ill.


Koroski and the GP architectural team directed the methodical removal of paint layers to reveal the original coloration of the ornate plasterwork. “By restoring Union Station’s original color scheme and stabilizing the skylight, visitors now enjoy the authentic experience intended in the 1920s, full of sunlight and color,” said Koroski.


Working with Berglund Construction, the team also installed a new elevator and restored 24 ceiling chandeliers and two figural sculptures by noted artist Henry Hering, also unveiled in 1925. Historic reproduction light fixtures added 27 light sources to improve interior lighting.


An innovative, suspended work deck with swing stages — in lieu of conventional floor-mounted scaffolding — allowed the construction work to proceed without interrupting the 120,000 daily travelers and commuters at this major transit hub, according to Amtrak. “This work enhances our customer experience, with a much brighter and inviting Great Hall,” said David Handera, Amtrak Vice President, Stations, Properties and Accessibility.


Complementing its work at the historic Union Station headhouse building, GP is currently designing a new high-rise office tower on an adjacent parcel to the south. Developed by Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, the building’s anchor tenant BMO Financial Group was announced in December 2018, with a planned opening in 2022.