Chicago’s Architectural Landscape Explained
Chicago’s architectural history is one of the most important in the modern world. You get a clear idea of that importance the minute you arrive. Chicago is home to some of the first skyscrapers in the world, and its skyline is one of the city’s most attractive features. In many cases, you can find cheap hotels in old buildings that were once revolutionary. The city’s architectural landscape is a personal experience that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Chicago’s architectural journey really took off after 1871, when the Great Chicago Fire destroyed just about everything made of wood, which was most of the city. The most remarkable building to survive is the Water Tower and old pumping station, which today is a Chicagoan landmark.
The 1880s saw a real change in the way buildings were constructed. Louis Sullivan, who was probably the most well-known Chicago architect, started creating skyscrapers with steel. His style was called the Chicago School, and his most famous work is the Carson, Pirie, Scott building. Walking around the city you can find all of the 1880s and 1890s buildings, such as the Home Insurance Building, the Montauk Building and the Reliance Building. The Chicago Building is a great example of the Chicago School as well.
As time went on, new ways of constructing skyscrapers came into use. The framed tube structures allowed architects to build taller skyscrapers, and the use of plane glass created a modern feel. The iconic Sears Tower, which was built in the 1960s, was the world’s tallest building for over two decades. Today it’s called the Willis Tower, but remains the city’s most recognizable landmark. Another is the John Hancock Building. Some other interesting skyscrapers include the Chase building, which when you stand beneath it and look up it looks like it’s falling over, and 311 South Wacker has a beautiful lobby and crown roof.
Apart from skyscrapers, there are also many other constructions that give Chicago its fame as an eclectic collection of architectural styles. From your Chicago hostel, head out to find one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School designs, such as the Emil Bach House. The rose coloured Harold Washington Library is gorgeous, and you might recognize the Wrigley Building from the new Batman movies. The Merchandise Mart is a giant block of a building, and boasted the most office space in the country before the Pentagon was built. The Chicago riverfront has an attractive array of steel and stone bridges, and streamlined skyscrapers line the way.
Chicago is noted also for its beautiful green spaces, such as the Millennium Park and Grant Park. You might want to check the listing of concerts in Millennium Park to picnic on the lawn under the lattice work encasing the area. Chicago museums are located around the parks as well, and are unique and beautiful in their own right. You’ll find the Field Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium and the Planetarium all housed in interested buildings.
Finally, be sure to walk among typical Chicago residential neighbourhoods like Portage Park to get an idea of Chicagoan townhouse construction. Maybe after all this, you’ll fall in love with the place, and return during another season when the same buildings look distinct.