While most visitors to Chicago will focus their architectural wandering to the core business district, the South Loop has all kinds of architectural highlights. From historic hotels and districts to the vertical campus of Roosevelt University, the South Loop is worth a wander.
First of all, when we say "South Loop" we are talking about the area south of the elevated tracks that "loop" around downtown. The South Loop has become a center for educational buildings. To start, Columbia College buildings on Michigan Avenue are early 1900s office buildings with refined details, like a mansard roof. Their campus on 11th Street is housed in the former Chicago Women's Club Building. For this 1929 structure, architects Holabird and Roche opted for the modern, sleek lines of the art deco style. At 1104 S. Wabash, you'll find the former Ludington Building, also part of Columbia College and one of the first all-steel structure building in history. Look at its form from the outside and you will clearly see the boxy outlines of its structure - it's what architecture geeks call "structural honesty."
The Roosevelt University's new building, completed in Spring of 2012, punctuates the skyline with its deep blue color and skinny, zig-zag form. With science labs, classrooms, administrative offices and a gym, it is a multipurpose building. Student dorms are on the top with impressive views of the skyline.
Whenever I'm giving highlights tours of the city and we get a view of the skyline from Museum Campus, I always like to point out the Hilton Hotel at 720 S. Michigan Avenue. This thing is gigantic. Built as the Stevens Hotel in the 1920s by Holabird and Roche, it was the world's largest for the time. This 25-story building originally had a roof-top golf course in addition to the luxury of private baths. Inside the building is "Louis 16th," and you'll really see what I mean if you peek into the ornately plastered ballroom.
Printers Rowe Historic District on Dearborn Street shows the beauty of terracotta ornamentation. On the blocky 1885 Dearborn Station building you'll see red floral motifs, or on the Second Franklin Building you can gaze at tile work that depict the history of printing. These former manufacturing buildings for the printing industry have been converted into residences, offices and a hotel.
Because of the evolution of this area, from a hub for the film or printing industries to its services and campuses today, the architecture has undergone interesting modifications. The contrast between old and new building in the South Loop makes it a particular fascinating area of Chicago to explore the city's architecture.
Images coutesy of City of Chicago/Adam Alexander