Top 10 Architectural Sites of Chicago

Chicago has no dearth of architectural wonders. Owing to this fact, its skyline from the highway is mesmerizing at nighttime, while walking through its jungle of skyscrapers is awe-inspiring in the daytime. Being a frequent visitor to this windy city, which was the birthplace of the skyscraper, I am often reminded of Babylon when I look at the Sears Towers. Of course since then many other buildings have been raised all over the world to overcome the Sears Towers, but the hype and attention that Sears Towers commanded cannot be defeated and even today the Sears Towers stands proudly as a pioneering veteran in our race for the skies. And with it and several other architectural archetypes, Chicago stands on the top of all US cities with its identity as the city of architecture.

Chicago Water Tower

The construction of the Water Tower was an inspiring feat of engineering innovation. Earning the contempt of many contemporaries, the building’s engineer, Ellis H. Chesbrough persisted with his plan to build the 2 mile pipeline for the project, 60 feet below Lake Michigan’s surface. Today having survived 140 years of history and the Great Fire of 1871, the building boasts the original castellated Gothic style architecture, which has made it into a cherished landmark.

Rookery Building

The Rookery with its impressive red brick, cubic front design is deceptively elegant on the inside. Once you step into the main entrance hall of the building it is not difficult to imagine this historic landmark as one having housed the offices of famous architects. The building with its unique style of exterior load-bearing walls, and interior steel frame, had its lobby remodeled by the great Frank Lloyd Wright himself. The skeletal structuring embedded in the glass doming ceiling has made for many enchanted wedding ceremonies.

Wrigley Building

The Wrigley Building was built for the gum magnate in 1924. The design combines the Giralda Tower of the Seville’s Cathedral with Renaissance style architecture. The building uses glazed terra cotta to preserve its pristine, white surface. This terra cotta is regularly hand-washed to preserve it. At night the combination of the white surface and strong floodlights create a sight to behold!

Farnsworth House

Built as a holiday retreat the Farnsworth House is the only residential construction by Mies van der Rohe. The steel and glass house was designed to give its occupants a sensory, spatial experience, bringing them in contact with the nature around the house from every corner of the building; although this experience comes at the expense of privacy.

Auditorium Building

A combination of a theatre, office and hotel space, this unique edifice exhibits the novel genius of its architect Dankmar Adler. Its interior is a remarkable example of architectural ornamentation with the grand, gold embellished elliptical arches of its theatre stage. Its public rooms are opulently furnished. With the construction of the building Adler wanted to bring the grandest and largest theatre within the reach of the common spectator. Because the site of the building had soft clay to a depth of 100 feet, an innovative solution required the designing of a mat of crisscrossing railroad ties which distributed the weight of the walls more evenly to avoid sinking.

Tribune Tower

This building built for the Chicago Tribune and Tribune Company, is an example Neo-Gothic style of architecture, with buttresses surrounding the peak of the tower. The design for the building was selected from winning entries of a competition hosted by the ‘Chicago Tribune’ for the ‘most beautiful and eye-catching building in the world’. There are carved images of Robin Hood and a howling dog in celebration of its architects, Hood and Howells. Additionally there are rock relics from various architectural sites all over the world, including the Taj Mahal, Notre Dame, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb and The Great Pyramid, amongst others.

Trump International Hotel and Tower

With a steel and glass wall exterior this hotel allows its guests to fully appreciate the grand view of the Chicago River. Not quite as tall as the Sears Tower the hotel still boasts a staggering 92 stories. On top of all that, pun unintended, for people unaccustomed to Chicago’s scarcity of parking, can make use of the 1000 spaces available to the hotel users.

John Hancock Center

The building houses the highest residences in the world. The design of the building by Fazlur Khan, is a mesh of steel in an X-bracing style, and is representative of the structural expressionist style. This design exemplifies the principle of form following function, as it allows for easier reconstruction of the usable floor space; the X-bracing gives greater stability during wind pressure and earthquakes. This steel, tubular structure is part of the ‘skin’ of the building which is a pioneer technique by the architect. Additionally, there is an elliptical plaza outside which serves as the oasis replete with plants and waterfall.

Sears Towers

This building is the apex of Chicago’s beautiful skyline. For 2 decades it was the emblem of architectural vision and inspiration. Today it holds one more record above everyone else: the highest restrooms in the world, situated on its sky deck.

333 West Wacker Drive

The building has a futuristic design with its glass curtain exterior walls and asymmetric form. The building curves on the Chicago River facing side, with the curving, green glass symbolizing the waves in the on-looking river as well as the bend in the river. It is regularly rectangular on the street facing side.

Honorable Mention: Chicago Spire, this modernistic design set for completion in 2012, aims to be the tallest residential complex in the world and will be taller than Sears Towers. The building mimics the spirals of a conch shell and is inspired from the simple, complexity that Nature imbibes on.

There they are the top 10 Architectural Sites of Chicago purely in the opinion of this author. Chicago is resplendent with beautiful buildings immersed in captivating history and trivia. This list is merely an induction into the cultural depth that these and other landmarks of Chicago provide to the city. By all means enter the city as an intrepid traveler and you may encounter them all, one by one.

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