Skip to contents
Downtown

The Thompson Center’s Sbarro Super Fans Held A Pizza Party To Save The Famed Building

Though the Sbarro Urbanists have a love for pizza and the building's food court — which has long inspired a strange devotion among Chicagoans — their main focus is on preserving the Thompson Center.

Josh Mings, Jonathan Solomon, Elizabeth Blasius and Eric Allix Rogers pose for a photo during a pizza party at the Sbarro in the Thompson Center on Aug. 19, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

THE LOOP — A pizza party Friday in the basement of the Thompson Center had one purpose: saving postmodern architecture — and Sbarro pizza.

About two dozen of the “Sbarro Urbanists,” as they call themselves, gathered in the center’s atrium to get a slice and enjoy the famed building. They hope its unique architecture will be preserved as the building is being sold to Google, which will transform it into offices.

“Is everyone here for the nerd convention?” Garrett Karp, architecture and urban history enthusiast, said as he approached the tables of pizza and Thompson Center ephemera.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Postmodern architecture enthusiasts pose for a photo by the Sbarro during a pizza party at the Sbarro in the Thompson Center on Aug. 19, 2022.

The pizzeria chain even got in on the fun. Sbarro saw the tweets about the gathering and sent company swag: socks, yo-yos and canteens.

And though the Sbarro Urbanists have a love for pizza and the building’s food court — which has long inspired a strange devotion among Chicagoans — their main focus is on the Thompson Center itself.

“It really shows that people love the Thompson Center like they have really, very well-utilized public space: the affordable lunch, the bathrooms, the CTA station,” Elizabeth Blasius said at the pizza party.

Google has agreed to buy all of the building for $105 million after it is renovated by other organizations. The Thompson Center will be “entirely redeveloped” into an office suite for Google’s workers as part of the deal, Gov. JB Pritzker said at a July news conference.

The sale saved the building from the wrecking ball — but preservationists hope it doesn’t see too much change under new ownership.

“There’s no reason that a building of this scale the size, exterior square footage and everything else that it’s got can’t be made to perform a function like you would hope a new building would,” architect Gunny Harboe said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Postmodern architecture enthusiasts enjoy Sbarro and a conversation during a pizza party at the Sbarro in the Thompson Center on Aug. 19, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Sbarro-branded swag is arranged on the tables during a pizza party at the Sbarro in the Thompson Center on Aug. 19, 2022.

As the center moves to private ownership, Blasius hopes its public utilities will remain, she said.

Besides the building’s food court, it’s home to public bathrooms and a CTA station.

Blasius also hopes the Thompson Center preservation can be an example of how buildings in neighborhoods that get less attention than Downtown can be saved.

“We can figure out a better way to get buildings that are culturally significant from underrepresented communities listed as designated landmarks,” she said. “This as a win illustrates that really anything is possible.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Sunlight reflects off a high floor of the Thompson Center as seen from the Atrium on Aug. 19, 2022.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation. 

Thanks for subscribing to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods. Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.

Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: