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13 Jan

The trim vertical look of the second-prize entry by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen shaped the silhouette of American skyscrapers for the next decade.

And the avant-garde designs by European architects like Walter Gropius anticipated the steel and glass high-rises that would transform cities after World War II.

It also is frustrating because the text that identifies and describes the designs is placed on a wall set apart from the models, making it hard for visitors to know what they're looking at.

And then, there are whimsical exercises in neo-postmodernism, like one from London's Sam Jacob Studio, which proposes a totem pole-like assemblage of aesthetically diverse fragments of reclaimed buildings. More compelling are designs that re-conceive the skyscraper from the inside out.So when the curators of the Chicago Architecture Biennial announced that they would undertake yet another Tribune Tower competition, there was ample reason to wonder whether the third time would be the stale dud.As if to underscore concerns that the exercise would be fruitless, the Tribune last month reported that it is planning to move out of its landmark tower next year and is engaged in advanced negotiations to become a tenant in the old Prudential Building.It is a lovely dream, with its tree-studded outdoor terraces and teeming interiors.And it's no exercise in superficial styling, like the slick pagoda-inspired towers that have risen in China.