30 March 2015


Chicago is known for its architecture and the city's impressive, super-sized skyline is one of the best I've seen - I love art deco architecture and it's in abundance in the Windy City, from historic landmarks and massive public buildings to big office blocks, sat against modern glass and steel skyscrapers, iconic towers like the John Hancock Center and Willis Tower, elegant hotels and the legendary houses of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Chicago skyline at night

As most buildings in the downtown area were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, there was a boom in the 1880s and 1890s with new buildings shooting up in a variety of styles and original designs, including many world firsts: architectural pioneers explored using steel frame construction instead of cast iron and the "Chicago School" architects emphasised the skyscraper's vertical nature using large plates of glass, which became the first modern skyscrapers.

Chicago skyscrapers
the skyline view from Chicago zoo

the skyline view from Chicago zoo

Wrigley Building, Chicago

The Wrigley Building is a skyscraper on the shopping tourist mecca the Magnificent Mile, built in 1919-1925 to house the headquarters of chewing gum giant the Wrigley Company.  It was designed by the architects Graham, Anderson, Probst & White and inspired by the Giralda tower of Sevilla's Cathedral, featuring a 30-story tower and 21-story clocktower connected by a 14th floor walkway and covered in gleaming glazed white terracotta tiles and beautiful, ornate stonework.

Wrigley Building, Chicago

The Chicago Water Tower at 806 North Michigan Avenue is the second-oldest water tower in the United States and is one of the few buildings to survive the fire. It now stands out surrounded by high-rise glass and shopping malls.

Chicago Water Tower

Some of the most famous Chicago skyscrapers are the 108-story tall Willis Tower (previously Sears Tower), which was the world's tallest building from its construction in 1973 until 1998, which now includes the hugely popular Skydeck observation deck.  The 100-story John Hancock Center topped with antenna masts and home to offices and restaurants, including The Signature Room on the 5th floor, was built in 1965-1969 and was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City.

Chicago skyscraper

The Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago

The jewel in Chicago's art deco crown is the awesome Carbide and Carbon Building, built in 1929.  Apparently the architects chose the dark green and gold colours based on a gold-foiled champagne bottle (how fabulously Jazz Age is that?)  Inside, the lobby is also of a classic Art Deco design, with intricate bronzework and stunning marble.

The Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago

The Carbide and Carbon Building, Chicago

Another Chicago icon, The Father Time Clock juts out of the 40-story historic Jewelers' Building facing the river on East Wacker Drive, which was built in 1926 for the city's diamond merchants. The 8-ton clock was a gift from the Elgin Watch Company to the Chicago Jeweler's Association and features a bronze base, octagonal dome topped by a five feet sculpture of Father Time and four white dials, each fitted with bezels with red lights which light up after dusk.

Father Time Clock, Chicago

a walkway between The Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park
a walkway from The Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park

Marina City, the corn cobs, Chicago architecture

The unique Marina City, known locally as the 'corn cobs', is a mixed-use residential and commercial complex of two 65-story cylindrical towers, built in 1959 by architect Bertrand Goldberg and completed in 1964.  It covers an entire city block on State Street by the river and houses a city within a city with a theatre, gym, swimming pool, ice rink, bowling alley, restaurants, penthouses and a marina.  At the time, it was the first building in the US to be constructed with tower cranes and the tallest residential building in the world.

Chicago Board of Trade
the Chicago Board of Trade, built in 1930

Nearby, there's the not-very-popular-with-locals Trump Tower, a skyscraper condo-hotel in downtown Chi, named after billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump, rising to 98 stories.

Chicago skyscrapers at night

Chicago street

Opposite the Wrigley Building is the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, built by New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood after they won the famous international design competition hosted by the Chicago Tribune in 1922 to build their new headquarters.

Civic Opera Building, Chicago
the Civic Opera Building, built in 1929

Chicago architecture

Chicago is a great city filled with contrasts, striking landmarks and a rich history - including 348 listings on the United States National Register of Historic Places - and I was one of those annoying tourists walking around looking up with my camera.  This is an edited version of photos I took of buildings alone...  Fantastic city.

Chicago skyscraper

The Chicago Merchandise Mart - iconic architecture
the Chicago Merchandise Mart, built in 1930

Chicago architecture

Downtown Chicago

Chicago architecture

The Chicago Skyline from Grant Park
the Chicago Skyline from Grant Park

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