Trump Tower - Blog

We all know Chicago is famous for its architecture. The number one tourist activity suggest to visitors by locals is an architectural boat cruise. And the big name "Frank Lloyd Wright" will inevitably come up as well. Chicagoans rave about our "magnificent skyline." All cities have buildings, and all buildings have architects, so what makes Chicago so special?

On a most primary level, the architecture of Chicago strikes visitors (and locals, too, for that matter) due to its scale. The size of the skyscrapers and the amount of them offers a landscape, which for most of us completely contrasts with the regular, more horizontally oriented spaces where we live and work. Buildings that stretch to the sky, such as Trump Tower, Willis Tower or the Hancock, impress us visually as works of art, and when we try to comprehend their scale we are impressed by the engineering of such magnificent structures. We think, "How in the world did they do that?"

Intercontinental Hotel - Blog
The juxtaposition of the buildings next to open spaces like the river and Millennium and Grant Parks also adds to the magical allure of our famous architecture. Photo after photo is taken by visitors crossing the Michigan Avenue Bridge, where reflections in the water multiply the visual effect of the buildings lining the riverbanks. We see watery replicas of the skyline and painterly reflections of the lights in the river. The view of architecture looming high from the low grassy fields of the Lurie Gardens in Millennium Park results in a dramatic contrast.

Lastly, the quality of the architects here in Chicago contribute to the caliber of the building designs. We have world famous architecture firms like Holabird & Root and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. We have great schools for urban planning, like the University of Illinois at Chicago, and for architecture school, like Illinois Institute of Technology. We've had grand innovators in architecture, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Helmut Jahn, call the Chicago area home.
Willis Tower Blog
And the reason we became such a hub for architecture in the first place partly goes back to the Great Fire of 1871. This disaster eliminated pretty much all of downtown, giving architects lots of new options for employment. Great early architects like Louis Sullivan and John Root came to Chicago during the post-fire building boom, which offered a plentitude of opportunities for experimentation by Chicago architects. And luck of the draw, Chicago also already had some talent here with architects such as William LeBaron Jenny, best known as "Father of the American Skyscraper," and Daniel Burnham, who became a great urban planner and many may recognize for the Flatiron Building of New York.

This first post in the new architecture blog for Choose Chicago introduces Chicago architecture, and in the future I'll share tips for visiting works of Chicago architecture and the fascinating background of the city's architectural highlights.