Building 521

Icons at Risk

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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's little-seen Building 521

Credit: Landmarks Illinois

Building 521

Location: Lake County, Ill.

Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Year: 1954

This spectacular work by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, built for Naval Station Great Lakes, located north of Chicago, may be torn down as part of an effort by the Department of Defense to reduce unused space in facilities associated with the nation's armed forces.

The elegant structure, located near the center of the base and inaccessible to the public, features one of SOM's first all-glass curtain walls. A proposal had suggested converting the building, formerly the Gunner's Mate School, into a cafeteria and club facility at a cost comparable to building anew. Still, the Navy has decided against reuse.

"Barring any new proposals for reuse or relocation," says Bill Couch, spokesman for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Midwest, "the Navy doesn't feel there are other ideas still unexplored." Concerned preservationists did argue successfully against the demolition of a second SOM structure on the base. The "Hostess House" is being ­converted into a museum on naval training.

Read more about SOM's Building 521

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