The Museum Campus is an architectural treat, both for the buildings you will find there and also the view of the Chicago skyline. Interspersed among museums and Soldier Field, you will find abundant green areas, pedestrian walkways, a harbor, Burnham Park, and the lakefront trail, making the Museum Campus a destination in itself.
The campus came into being from architect Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. In this influential work, Burnham proposed for a monumental central area for civic and cultural institutions. While the unity of city buildings and museums in one connected space never happened, the Field Museum of Natural History was built on the Southeast end of Grant Park in 1921 as the first in the area, and it was designed by Burnham's firm. This neoclassical behemoth of a building is beautiful both inside and out. Wonder why it's called the "Field"? That would be merchandising mogul Marshall Field's and all his money behind that.
You'll find a similar design with the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Columns, pediments, and other ancient Greek structures and ornamentation became the standard for cultural buildings like these after the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition chose it as the style. Plus since it came after the Field, the architects of Graham, Anderson Probst and White wanted to offer some visual harmony with the Field Museum. Look closely for the aquatic motifs on this magnificent building, faced in marble.
The Planetarium of 1930 would be the space-ship-looking building at the far end of the campus. It's actually on what is called "Northerly Island" though the land is a man-made peninsula. Architect Ernest A. Grunsfeld, who later focused his career in modernist homes, fittingly chose a more art deco style for the Planetarium, an institution with forward-thinking ideas and outer space contents.
The newest architectural piece to note would be Soldier Field. While it has the historic Doric-style columns of the original 1920s structure, the interior is clearly contemporary, a result of renovations in the early 2000s. Dubbed by some as "Spaceship on Soldier Field," its juxtaposition of old-fashioned and flashy-new is perfectly postmodern. On a more positive note, it was the first NFL stadium to receive LEED status in 2012.
You'll find a beautiful beach and park on the south end of Northerly Island. Out on the north end of Northerly Island you can view the vastness of Grant Park and the multitude of skyscrapers, as well as get a profile look at Navy Pier. It's one of the best views of Chicago architecture in the city.
Photo courtesy of City of Chicago