Chicago Architectural Biennial and Beyond
20 March 2018
In a city that is home to numerous design firsts, it’s hardly surprising that some of the greatest minds in the field would gather here to discuss architecture and its historical significance. And with Chicago’s rich architecture history comes a number of significant buildings across the area. 1000M itself aims to add to that list, ushering in a new design era for Chicago. We delve more deeply into the architectural history of the city and ways that you can see the best of what your backyard has to offer.
Chicago Architectural Biennial
Chicago’s recent Architecture Biennial brought more than 141 practitioners in the fields of architecture and design together to discuss the theme “Make New History.” The exhibit, housed in the Chicago Cultural Center, aimed to encourage the public to consider architecture in a historical context, both for its impact on the past and its potential to shape the future.
Chicago Skyscrapers: a History
Indeed, Chicago architects have had quite an impact on the field’s history – in fact, the first skyscraper was constructed here. Because Chicago’s architectural history is so vast, we’ve included 11 of the most noteworthy skyscrapers below:
Designed by famed architect Helmut Jahn, this arresting 832-foot skyscraper is outfitted in his signature all-glass styling. The building begins as a rectangle at its base and widens toward the top to allow for expansive views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan.
Completed in the late 19th century, this La Salle Street office building is considered the oldest high-rise in Chicago. Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the lobby to introduce a glass ceiling, beautifully illuminating the space in what is known as the “light court.”
Initially constructed to house the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the Art Institute of Chicago now spans five buildings, the original of which was developed in the Beaux Arts style. The Modern Wing, the most recent and largest expansion of the museum, was designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano and offers beautiful views of Millennium Park.
The Chicago Cultural Center, the city’s first public library, is also famous for its two spectacular stained glass domes. The building’s Garland Court façade now boasts a beautiful mural celebrating the women who’ve made Chicago’s arts and culture so vibrant.
The Carbide and Carbon Building is a stunning Art Deco skyscraper outfitted in black granite. The hotel within is undergoing remodeling and will debut with a new name, the St. Jane Chicago Hotel, after the suffragette and “mother” of social work, Jane Addams.
The Spertus Institute building boasts a unique window wall comprised of over 700 pieces of glass. The glass façade’s geometry is such that each piece exists as a parallelogram in three dimensions, and was designed to represent the open nature of the Institute within.
The James R. Thompson Center was designed by 1000M architect Helmut Jahn, and houses 150 pieces of an art collection funded by the state of Illinois, in addition to the state’s governmental offices. The building has a unique reddish pink and blue color scheme that complements a circular and airy atrium.
The Chicago Federal Plaza encompasses three buildings, but perhaps most notably, it features the large red “Flamingo” sculpture by Alexander Calder outside. The sculpture was unveiled in the mid-70s after a parade in which the artist was pulled through the streets on a circus wagon.
Another Art Deco marvel, the Chicago Board of Trade Building plays host to a 31-foot tall statue of the goddess of agriculture, Ceres, amongst other exterior sculptures that represent the trade inside the building. Expanded in 1980 by Helmut Jahn’s firm, the building now boasts 45 stories.
The Monadnock Building revolutionized the building process through its usage of aluminum in its decorative stairs. It was also one of the first buildings to be named as a Chicago Architectural Landmark.
Dubbed “Chicago’s front yard,” Grant Park is home to a number of features, including the Art Institute, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and numerous gardens and parks.
Chicago Architecture Walking Guide
To make your exploration of Chicago’s design easier, we’ve developed a downloadable Chicago architecture walking guide that includes the 11 buildings from our list. Just click to download and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the best architectural marvels in the city.