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James R. Thompson Center

People either hate or love this state-government building. Former governor James Thompson, who selected the Helmut Jahn design, hailed it in his 1985 dedication speech as "the first building of the 21st century." For others, it's a case of postmodernism run amok. A bowl-like form topped by a truncated cylinder, the 17-story building's sky-blue-and-salmon color scheme screams 1980s. But the 17-story atrium, where exposed elevators zip up and down and sunlight casts dizzying patterns through the metal-and-glass skin, is one of the most animated interiors anywhere in the city. The sculpture in the plaza is Jean Dubuffet's Monument with Standing Beast. It was once nearly as controversial as the building itself. The curved shapes, in white with black traceries, have led it to being nicknamed "Snoopy in a blender." The Illinois Artisans Shop (312/814–5321), on the second level of the center, sells crafts, jewelry, and folk art by Illinois artists; it's open weekdays 9–5.

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