Downtown Chicago Architecture To See During Sage Summit 2016

The Chicago area is home to some of the world’s greatest urban architecture. Burnham, Root, Holabird, Richardson, Sullivan, Wright, Skidmore, van der Rohe, Goldberg, Johnson, Jahn, and Gang are just a few of recognizable giants of architecture who are represented. Fortunately for Sage Summit attendees, many of the most interesting buildings are right downtown, in easy view as you get around town. Walking and the “L” are our favorite ways to experience the scene, but boat and bus tours are readily available. Don’t miss the skyline from above at the Hancock Tower or Willis (Sears) Tower observation decks. Here are some highlights, in no particular order, as quoted from the Chicago Architecture Foundation site…

Aqua

Aqua Tower

225 N. Columbus Dr.

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“The Aqua Tower’s design is a brilliant new approach to the problem long ago identified by Louis Sullivan—how to create an aesthetic for a functional tall building. The basic structure is a standard, modern box. But Jeanne Gang and her firm, Studio Gang, surrounded this box with slow-rippling, white concrete balconies, giving the skyscraper a sculptural quality.”
Monadnock Building

Monadnock Building

53 W. Jackson Blvd

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“As you pass by the Monadnock Building in Chicago’s Loop, you may not recognize it as a transitional moment in architectural history.But in this building, the shift can be seen from load-bearing construction to skeleton frame construction. It represents a broad change happening throughout the city during this time.”
Merchandise Mart

Merchandise Mart

222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza

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“The Merchandise Mart, situated on the Chicago River, occupies more than 4 million square feet (approximately 372,000 square meters) or the equivalent of two-and-a-half city blocks. Upon its completion in 1930, it was the largest building in the world and served as Marshall Field’s wholesale warehouse, where retailers could buy stock.”
Marina City

Marina City

300 N. State St

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“Downtown Chicago (sometimes referred to as the Loop) is now one of the fastest growing residential neighborhoods in the Chicagoland area. But downtown living hasn’t always been so trendy. When architect Bertrand Goldberg envisioned Marina City, it was an urban experiment designed to draw middle-class Chicagoans back to the city after more than a decade of suburban migration.”
Federal Center

Federal Center

219 S. Dearborn St.

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“Chicago Federal Center, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is a monument to the architect’s maxim, “Less is more.” Simplified, modern and efficient, the steel and glass buildings embody the Miesian vocabulary. Its 1974 completion signified a new era in the form and function of public architecture.”
Chicago Water Tower

Chicago Water Tower

806 N. Michigan Ave.

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“It’s a common myth that the Chicago Water Tower was the only building that remained standing after the Great Fire of 1871. In truth, it only became the most iconic structure left standing. Though large sections of the south and west sides of the city were never touched by the Fire, the Water Tower became a rallying point for the city. It stood as a symbol for a city determined to rise from its own ashes.”
Clarke House

Clarke House

1827 S. Indiana Ave.

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“Henry Brown Clarke moved his family from Utica, New York, to the fledgling city of Chicago in 1835. Clarke quickly found success selling hardware and building supplies and began building this home near 16th St and Michigan Ave in 1836. It was the first substantial house in an area that would eventually become the Prairie Avenue District.” (A short walk from McCormick Place!)
Glessner House

Glessner House

1800 S. Prairie Ave.

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“Henry Hobson Richardson designed Glessner House in his namesake style, characterized by rusticated granite walls and large Romanesque arches surrounding both front and side entrances. Otherwise, the house has very little ornament. Its fortress-like plan opens mostly inward rather than outward. Richardson claimed it was his favorite design of all his houses.” (A short walk from McCormick Place!)

Charnley-Persky House

Charnley-Persky House

1365 N. Astor St.

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“When wealthy lumber baron James Charnley decided to build a house, he hired the well-known firm of Adler & Sullivan. The final design was an unusual collaborative effort between an architect, Louis Sullivan, and his draftsman—in this case, Frank Lloyd Wright. While it was not typical for a draftsman to play such a significant role in the design process, Wright was certainly not a typical draftsman.”
Wrigley Building

Wrigley Building

400-410 N. Michigan Ave.

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“When Michigan Avenue was extended north of the river, it opened up a gritty landscape of small buildings and industry to a complete transformation. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. touched off the boom when he decided to build a new headquarters for his company on an oddly shaped lot west of Michigan Avenue and just north of the river. It was the first, and quite possibly the finest, of the buildings that have come to define the Magnificent Mile.”
Tribune Tower

Tribune Tower

435 N. Michigan Ave.

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“Hood and Howells’ winning Gothic Revival tower used architectural ideas borrowed from the past. The lower office block is sheathed in Indiana limestone with vertical piers and horizontal spandrels characteristic of Art Deco. The building’s crown recalls a Medieval European tower, imitating the Butter Tower of the 13th-century Rouen Cathedral in France. Inside, visitors encounter a Hall of Inscriptions. Carved into the lobby walls are famous quotations from Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, praising and exalting freedom of the press.”

Willis Tower

Willis (Sears) Tower

233 S. Wacker Dr.

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“For nearly 25 years after its completion, the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, held the title of tallest building in the world. Standing 110 stories tall, its black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass exterior has become emblematic of Chicago, a city crazy about its architecture. Although its record-breaking height has been surpassed several times over, its innovative structural design remains noteworthy. The Willis Tower laid the foundation for the supertall buildings being built today.”
333 West Wacker

333 West Wacker

333 West Wacker

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“Sited at the point of the Chicago River where the main branch meets its south branch, this 36-floor office building designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) stands out among its neighbors. Its 489-foot curved, blue-green glass facade mimics the color of the river. Like a chameleon, it seems to transform as the sun moves across it throughout the day. Similar to another Chicago favorite, Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate sculpture, 333 West Wacker’s reflective facade compresses and stretches the skyline to the delight of onlookers.”
Hancock Center

Hancock Center

875 N. Michigan Ave.

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“If you’re looking for an example of Chicago’s role in innovative skyscraper design, look no further than the John Hancock Center. This 1,499-foot (456.9-meter) skyscraper’s groundbreaking engineering helped to make buildings taller than 100 stories—a new possibility—and freed skyscrapers to come from their traditional rectilinear shapes.”
Thompson Center

Thompson Center

100 W. Randolph St.

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“When you first encounter the Thompson Center, you might wonder if a UFO has landed in the middle of the Loop. The Helmut Jahn-designed center of state government is unabashedly Postmodern, with colorful details and a shape that references the dome of the state’s capitol. In addition to making a bold first impression, its design is intended to communicate a message. The openness and transparency of the building are meant to symbolize the state’s commitment to serving the people.”
Michigan Avenue Bridge

Michigan Avenue (Dusable) Bridge

N. Michigan Ave. and E. Wacker Dr.

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“Like most bridges over the Chicago River, the DuSable Bridge is movable, which allows boats to pass underneath. Trunnion bascule bridges, like this one, are distinctive features of Chicago’s infrastructure. They’re movable bridges with counterweights that lift by rotating around large, fixed axles called trunnions. The enormous underground counterweights balance the bridge’s leaves and allow relatively small motors to open and close it. DuSable’s two double-deck leaves carry both Michigan Avenue and a lower-level service road over the river. When the bridge was first constructed, it was said to be the only double-deck bridge built with highways on both levels.”
The Rookery

The Rookery

209 S. LaSalle St

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“When completed, the Rookery was thought to be the largest and finest office building in the United States. Located at the corner of LaSalle and Adams, the Rookery is one of Chicago’s most elegant buildings and a star of the LaSalle Street financial corridor. Part of what makes the Rookery a gem is its interior light court. It maximizes the amount of light and air in the building—a critical problem wrestled with by 19th-century architects John Wellborn Root and Daniel Burnham. The light court illuminates the building’s square interior plan. Sheltered by a glass ceiling, the two-story lobby and public space is a sight to be seen.”
Chicago Board of Trade

Chicago Board of Trade

141 W. Jackson Blvd.

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“Holding court at the south end of LaSalle St., the Chicago Board of Trade Building presides over Chicago’s financial district. The regal 45-story skyscraper is the epitome of Art Deco styling. It was designed and constructed during the heyday of Art Deco in Chicago by John A. Holabird and John Wellborn Root Jr., themselves second-generation architectural royalty. The prolific pair’s structure confidently occupies its prestigious site while boldly communicating its contribution to the Chicago economy.”

190 South LaSalle

190 South LaSalle

190 South LaSalle

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“When walking down LaSalle Street—in the financial heart of Chicago—you might not take notice of 190 South LaSalle. The building’s austere masonry facade blends in well with its similarly clad neighbors. But while 190 South LaSalle intentionally blends in at street level, it makes quite a statement along the skyline. Its green gabled roof is distinctive. Designed by architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee, this building does a brilliant job of optimizing both ways it is viewed: as an unassuming structure from the street and as an eye-catching tower in the distance.”
Railway Exchange Building

The Railway Exchange Building

224 S. Michigan Ave.

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“Chicago has long been an important railroad center, beginning with the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad in 1848. By 1900, there were six passenger terminals downtown, and 15,000 people worked for the railroads. As a result of this large employee population, administrators needed affordable office space. The Santa Fe Railroad approached the renowned architecture firm of D.H. Burnham to solve this problem. The proposed new Railway Exchange Building would be shared by the Santa Fe and several other railroads.”

Inland Steel Building

Inland Steel Building

30 W. Monroe St.

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“Don’t let the Inland Steel Building fool you. It’s an architectural giant disguised as a modest office building. Architects and architecture buffs have admired the sophisticated, Mid-Century Modern design of this Chicago classic for generations. The 19-story office tower’s sleek facade combines shimmering aquamarine glass and stainless steel. Its innovative use of the metal pays homage to the building’s namesake, the Inland Steel Company. To celebrate this success, Inland Steel commissioned a new corporate headquarters in Chicago’s Loop in 1954. Architects Walter Netsch and Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill obliged.”
Fine Arts Building

Fine Arts Building

410 S. Michigan Ave.

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 “In 1883, the Studebaker Carriage Company planned to make Chicago the center of its retail business while maintaining manufacturing in South Bend, Indiana. Two years later, the company commissioned what was originally known as the Studebaker Building on Michigan Avenue to serve as a carriage factory and showroom. By 1896, having secured larger manufacturing quarters, the Studebaker family converted the building to studios for artists, musicians, architects and others. The building became a home to both the women’s suffrage movement and the Arts and Crafts movement in the Midwest.”
Carbide and Carbon Building

Carbide and Carbon Building

230 N. Michigan Ave.

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“Luxurious, exuberant and dramatic, the Carbide and Carbon Building is a metaphor for the sumptuous décor of 1920s America. The Carbide and Carbon Company, which developed the first dry cell battery, needed a regional headquarters to house its rapidly expanding business. Company executives wanted the building to make a statement, to communicate the firm’s success and to attract clients. They commissioned the Burnham Brothers (sons of the deceased Daniel Burnham), who completed the structure in 1929.”
Chicago Athletic Association

Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

12 S. Michigan Ave.

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“It’s not often that the doors to an exclusive private club are thrown open to the public. The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel has done just that, painstakingly restoring a landmark that—for more than a century—most people could only appreciate from the outside. The Chicago Athletic Association opened in 1893 amid the boom surrounding the World’s Columbian Exposition. It offered an escape from the city, with all the comforts of a well-appointed home—and excellent athletic facilities for its members to enjoy.”
860-880-north-lake-shore-drive-02-2

860–880 North Lake Shore Drive

860–880 North Lake Shore Drive

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“Ludwig Mies van der Rohe capitalized on the post-World War II availability of steel and concrete in 1949 to create two 26-story apartment towers. He called their design aesthetic “skin and bones.” The two towers are set at right angles on a trapezoidal site to maximize views of Lake Michigan. They almost seem to hover above their travertine plaza and are connected by a single canopy. Mies’ “less is more” maxim is displayed in the structures’ austere, steel exterior—painted Detroit Graphite black—and rhythmic window bays. Are they office buildings or residential structures? Mies doesn’t include ornamentation to serve as clues.”
111 south wacker

111 South Wacker

111 South Wacker

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“111 South Wacker is an award-winning Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified building. The International Association of Lighting Designers gave 111 South Wacker one of its 2006 Awards for Excellence, stating, ‘A luminous ceiling bathes the white core walls with a cool, diffuse northern light […] The lighting of the underside of the garage ramp reinforces the radial pattern using dimmable fluorescent lights in architectural coves. Radial slots were cut into the ceilings to integrate lighting equipment used to stimulate plant growth.’ Night or day, inside or outside the building, 111 South Wacker is a feast for the eyes and easy on the planet’s resources”
Harold Washington Library

Harold Washington Library

400 S. State St.

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“When it comes to Chicago’s iconic skyline, it isn’t always easy to make a mark and stand out from the crowd. But that isn’t something the Harold Washington Library has struggled to do. The building’s massive footprint and abundant exaggerated ornamentation practically scream, “Look at me!” All of that ornamentation does more than just decorate the structure’s exterior, though. The Harold Washington Library wants our attention for a practical purpose too. Boldly Postmodern, it wants to tell a story. The building playfully displays dozens of symbols that communicate its function, celebrate its location and pay homage to its architectural predecessors. Some might say you can read it like a book.”
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