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Old January 19th, 2007, 11:23 PM
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"Go Bears" & "Happy 2007" - A CNA Plaza Experience
Over the past year or so, I've talked a LOT about CNA Plaza, namely my Dad's involvement with the many lighted window messages that appear at night. But just as you have, I've mostly been following these adventures second-handed, hearing him tell me the stories and then posting the photos that are sent to me. It was time to change that!

"Go Bears" on the east face of CNA Plaza

"Happy 2007" on the west face of CNA Plaza

On New Year's Eve, I had the wonderful opportunity to join Dad downtown as he setup the windows with a new combination message that both cheered the Bears on during a Sunday Night Football game as well as wished in the New Year.

"Go Bears" is back, but without the logo

"Happy 2007" is a new message!

It was an odd combination, to say the least... a lot of folks had their New Year's Eve plans ruined when NBC moved the final Bears game of the season from afternoon to evening in a quest for increased ratings.

Mockup of the "Go Bears" message

Those who planned on going to the game and then attend a party afterwards had to decide which they preferred, since 2007 would roll in shortly after the game would end. (Those who stayed home were probably smart... Green Bay Packers killed the Bears 13-3!)

Looking up at "Big Red"

Because of the odd turn of events, and the fact that the game was now on national television in primetime, the powers that be at CNA decided it was once again time to roll out the "Go Bears" window signage. After all, it had worked very well for them in the past, getting them some free publicity on the broadcast!

Mockup of the "Happy 2007" message

At the same time, however, the building wanted to tap into the New Year's party crowds that obviously would be in the area. So, in a unique play for CNA Plaza, two different messages would be displayed on the building. A "Go Bears" message would face east, towards the lake and Soldier Field, while a new "Happy 2007" message would face west towards the rest of downtown.

Anyone have a light?

In a divergence from the typical "Go Bears" setup, no messages or logos would appear on the north or south faces of the building. (Longtime readers may recall that the Bears head logo with the slanted eyes would normally go here).

CNA's logo appears on the construction walls

The lobby is getting an overhaul

CNA Plaza is currently undergoing a rather extensive set of renovations. This includes a complete redesign of their lobby area, which is now boarded up and covered with rather humorous construction signs.

Someone has a sense of humor!

Some of this improvement is due to the fact that the building now has another tenant besides the insurance giant. The Chicago Housing Authority is moving in on a couple of floors.

The CHA is coming

So, now you have CNA + CHA. Gee, that's not going to be confusing at all!

"Go Bears" internal plan

"Happy 2007" internal plan

Dad got downtown on that Sunday at around 10:00 a.m. to start the process with the windows. It was pretty foggy and a bit rainy throughout the day, so one wondered if the message would even be visible. In any case, the setup process started by viewing the internal view plan for the lighting, which shows everything in reverse from the perspective of inside the building looking out.

The dot indicates open blinds

An open window and the Sears Tower

With this plan the crew works the floors and marks the windows, typically with colored dots. The dots signify which windows are to have their blinds completely open. Windows without dots get closed. The process seems simple enough.

Dad opens the blinds

Once I got cleared with security, and took the service elevator up the building with Dad to see how this all was done in person. (One would think that everything would be automated or something, given the many times this has been done. But no, it's a completely manual process. At least they have a plan generated via AutoCAD to go by!)

Looking down on Millennium Park

Metropolitan Tower

Let me just say... those who work on the upper floors of CNA Plaza have a great view of the city!

Buckingham Fountain

Field Museum, Solider Field, and McCormick Place

Green roof building is Chicago's main public library

You get to see all the big architectural landmarks from this perspective. Millennium Park, Metropolitan Tower (formerly Continental Center I -- the original home of CNA), Prudential Plaza (both One and Two), Aon Center, Blue Cross-Blue Shield Tower (which is a competitor in the window lighting realm), the Smurfit-Stone Building (made famous in the film Adventures in Babysitting, also sometimes a window lighting competitor), Buckingham Fountain, The Macy's Museum (j/k... it's still The Field Museum), Soldier Field, and McCormick Place.

Looking down on the former CNA Plaza North building

As we changed levels a few times, it also was neat to look down and see the former CNA Plaza North building, which is grey and apparently much shorter!

Blinds are closed...

... Dad appears...

... blinds are open!

With the sun setting on the west side of the building first, crews there started double checking the lighting setups around 4:30 p.m. or so (you have to remember, people work in this building all the time, so things get messed up easily).

View from the back alley

While this happened, I grabbed my camera and tripod and walked the few blocks over to Grant Park, setting up next to Buckingham Fountain to capture the exterior photos you see in this update.

Skyline with Smurfit-Stone Building in the center

And while the perennial copy-cat Blue Cross-Blue Shield Tower didn't have anything going on in their windows, I did notice that the Smurfit-Stone Building made an attempt to compete with CNA's awesomeness.


Needless to say, their attempt was lame.

Because they fall below the "building horizon",
the bottom floors on the west side can have their lights on

With everything looking good, Dad and I hopped in the car and started heading home before things got really insane downtown. But before we took off, I worked my way over to the never-seen west side of the building. Typically, all the published photos you see of CNA Plaza are taken from the lake (or east side). It's actually kinda hard to see the west side of the building due other tall buildings in the way. You can get a pretty good view from the expressways, however. In any case, the best way I could get a shot of the "Happy 2007" message was to pretty much setup a block away at the base of the structure and shoot upwards.

A couple of gals walked by as I was doing this, obviously heading to a party, and looked up... they commented "that's pretty cool!"

Yes, it is!
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