Now called 55 West Monroe, the structure provides an anchor along both adjacent streets, making the most of its quarter-block, corner site.

The Xerox Center in Chicago, designed by Helmut Jahn, FAIA, at CF Murphy and Associates, won a citation in the 1978 Progressive Architecture awards. Now called 55 West Monroe, the structure provides an anchor along both adjacent streets, making the most of its quarter-block, corner site.

Credit: Rainer Viertlboeck


The 1970s saw the rise of a group of architects dubbed the “Silvers,” who sought a sleek, machine-like minimalism, and few towers expressed that aesthetic as clearly as the Xerox Center in Chicago, completed in 1980 by C.F. Murphy Associates, with Helmut Jahn, FAIA, as project principal. The 45-story office tower has an elegant form, with a rounded corner that culminates in a curving mechanical penthouse and a two-story street front that undulates inward to create a covered space at the building’s two entrances. A flush curtainwall echoes the tower’s simple form. Large, white, aluminum-and-glass panels extend from the sidewalk to the parapet, with half-height glazing on three sides and full-height windows facing the plaza across the street.

  • Tower detail.

    Credit: Rainer Viertlboeck

    Tower detail.
  • Curtainwall detail.

    Credit: Rainer Viertlboeck

    Curtainwall detail.

Jahn’s design, though, challenged the tradition of a tower on pilotis in a plaza or park. Occupying only a quarter of the block, Jahn’s tower holds the street edge along West Monroe Street and stands back only 20 feet from South Dearborn Street to reveal the corner of the landmark 1895 Marquette Building next door. The Xerox Center, now called 55 West Monroe, also echoes Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s 1957 Inland Steel Building, which sits catty-corner across the street. It too hugs the street and has a sleek, metallic curtainwall, serving as a precedent to the “Silvers” architecture of 20 years later.

Curtainwall detail.

Curtainwall detail.

Credit: Rainer Viertlboeck


Helmut Jahn has gone on to design much larger buildings and more sophisticated curtain­walls, but the Xerox Center foretells his later career, while showing the more restrained and minimalist character of his early work.

1978 P/A Awards Jury 
William Bain, FAIA
Natalie de Blois
Robert Gutman
Calvin Hamilton, AIA
David Lewis, FAIA
Richard Meier, FAIA
Charles Moore
Robert Shibley, FAIA