Chicago, the most important city in America, located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Illinois, is among the largest cities in the U.S. Famed for its bold Chicago architecture, it has a skyline punctuated by skyscrapers such as the iconic John Hancock Center, 1,451-ft. Willis Tower and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower.

The city is also renowned for its museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago with its noted Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.

“Chicago ranks seventh in the world for the number of skyscrapers “

This windy city has long been connected with some of architecture’s most important names such as Frank-Lloyd-Wright, Louis-Sullivan, Mies-van-der-Rohe, and Holabird & Root.

Following is the list of 15 places every Architect must visit in the“birthplace of skyscrapers – Chicago”, during their next vacation.

1. Rookery Building | Chicago Architecture

Completion year: 1888
Architect: Burnham & Root, F.L.Wright

Rookery building is one of Chicago’s most old famous and beloved historic buildings. 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.

From its colourful exterior to its glistening interior, the Rookery provides an opportunity to experience the raw beauty and uncover a myriad of architectural styles in Chicago. This building, which has been a Chicago icon since its opening in 1888, is a masterful work of engineering.

Part of what makes the Rookery a gem is its interior light court. It maximizes the amount of light and air in the building. 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.

The exterior is an experiment in using historical decorative elements in a contemporary office building in the late 19th century. The facade contains decorative elements reminiscent of late Roman, Venetian, Moorish, and medieval-European architecture.

2. Monadnock Building

Completion year: 1891, 1893
Architect: Burnham& Root, Holabird & Roche

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 to skeleton frame construction. It represents a broad change happening throughout the city during this time.

These old historic buildings were built in two different phases, but the facades of each phase couldn’t look more different. The Monadnock’s northern half wears adaring, stripped-down facade, while its southern half is adorned in traditionally inspired ornamentation that expresses its metal structure. Each half, in its own way, demonstrates the transition happening during its time.

The northern half, completed in 1891 and designed by Burnham & Root, has exterior walls that layer brick on top of brick, in the load-bearing tradition. But its construction also reveals technical advances being tested at the time.

When the second half of the building was designed by Holabird & Roche just two years later, the brick and terra cotta facade of the southern portion need not bear the weight of the building anymore, instead, it was hung on a rigid metal frame that transfers loads to the ground.

3. Robie house

Completion year: 1909
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright

Amid a collection of Victorian homes in Hyde Park, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Robie House, stands out from the crowd. Trading height and lavish ornamentation for clean horizontal lines, it tightly hugs the ground. It is the epitome of Wright’s Prairie School and a house that seems to grow out of its Midwestern landscape.

The layout of Robie House is a big departure from more traditional homes of the era. The main entrance is tucked away on the short side of the building and hidden under an overhanging second story. Without a grand front door, even finding your way inside the building is an act of discovery, just as Frank Lloyd Wright intended.

The Robie House is one of the country’s residential gems, the building exhibits Frank Lloyd Wright’s genius at the peak of his career. The Stretching cantilevered eaves, hidden entryways, stained glass, inviting hearths are some of the key features of this beautiful house.

It’s important to Chicago and the history of architecture because it captures the needs and desires of an American family at a distinct moment in time, the birth of the 20th century.

4. Wrigley Building

Completion year: 1924
Architect: Graham, Anderson, Probst& white

The Wrigley Building is so recognizable, it hardly needs an introduction. It stands proudly where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River, a luminous white beacon known the world over, as a beloved symbol of Chicago’s pre-eminence in architecture and commerce.

The Wrigley Building, whose bell tower is styled after the Giralda Tower of the Seville, Spain, consists of twin structures clad in white terra cotta and was the first skyscraper built on the new grand boulevard.

Six different shades of gleaming white terra cotta become brighter as the building rises, and its façade is illuminated at night. A second tower was commissioned shortly after the completion of the first, presenting a harmonious front to Michigan Avenue. The two buildings are linked by a third-floor bridge.

They’ve been immaculately maintained since completion with regular maintenance to keep them sparkling white. A thorough restoration has undergone and it received official Chicago Landmark status in 2012.

 5. Tribune Tower | Chicago Architecture

Completion year: 1925
Architect: Howells& Hood

In 1922, on the occasion of its 75th anniversary, the Chicago Tribune announced an International Competition for a new downtown headquarters. The competition sought, “…for Chicago, the most beautiful building in the world.” A total of $100,000 in prize money was offered with a $50,000 prize for the winner.
More than 260 entries from 23 countries, and a place in history as one of the largest, and most important architectural competitions in America, this is the legacy of the Tribune Tower.

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.

While some critics had hoped the winning design would point toward the future of American architecture, Hood and Howells’ design appealed to the newspaper owners’ sense of nostalgia, history and moral purpose.

 6. Civic Opera house

Completion year: 1929
Architect: Graham, Anderson, Probst

The Civic Opera House, also called as Lyric Opera House, is an opera house located at 20 North Wacker drive in Chicago. The Civics’ main performance space, seats 3,563, making it the second-largest opera auditorium in North America, after the Metropolitan opera house..

Today it is the permanent home of the lyric opera of Chicago. It is part of a complex with a 45-story office tower and two 22-story wings, known as the Civic Opera Building that opened on November 4, 1929.

This building’s art-deco style facade faces the Chicago River and is shaped like an enormous armchair, with its back towards the east. In 1993, this second largest auditorium undergoes renovation and in 1996, it becomes a beautiful permanent landmark of Chicago.

7. Merchandise Mart

Completion year: 1930
Architect: Graham, Anderson, Probst & White

“Size has always mattered in the Midwest”. From the World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas, to the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, Illinois, the pursuit of bigger and better is evident in the region’s landscape.

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.

The Merchandise Mart is one of many Art deco buildings in Chicago that reflect the optimism of the 1920s. The steel-framed structure is clad in limestone, terra cotta and bronze, and its ornamentation displays many of the style’s popular motifs.

This historic building was named a Gold LEED certified building after 85 years of existence, and now is a centre of cutting-edge tech innovation for Chicago. This largest building in the world remains a centre for commercial and residential design. This massive structure now recognized as a key Chicago hub for technological innovation.

8. S.R.Crown Hall

Completion year: 1956
Architect: Mies van der rohe

Crown Hall is widely considered to be the finest work of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. Built to house the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) College of Architecture, it showcases many core elements of his design vocabulary and is a jewel of Mid-century modernism. This building is simple, elegant and incredibly effective—and very humbling to enter. It is truly a Chicago icon.

Mies sought to create a style that reflected the mechanical spirit of the age, and this drive permeated both the curriculum and the buildings he created at IIT. The design is seemingly simple. Mies once described the building as “almost nothing.”

Sited at a focal point in landscape architect Alfred Caldwell’s campus design, Crown Hall seems to float delicately above the lawn, reachable by a cascading waterfall of travertine marble steps.

Crown Hall will continue to inspire the cutting edge of architecture and design for decades to come.

9. Chicago architecture foundation

Completion year: 1966

The Chicago Architecture Center (CAC), formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation, is a non-profit cultural organization based in Chicago, Illinois, United States, whose mission is to inspire people to discover why designmatters.Source: Google images

Founded in 1966, its programs include public tours and programs, most notably the docent-led architecture cruise on the Chicago River, and other tours in the Chicago area. The CAC offers approximately 85 different tours of the city. All tours are led by trained volunteer docents who go through a 14-week training course before being certified to lead CAC tours.

The famous Chicago’s first lady cruisestour will include all the important historic buildings and major landmarks of Chicago and will departures every year April- November. So, if one wants to know more about the architecture of Chicago, these river cruises will help you lot and has to be added on their bucket list.

10. Marina City | Chicago Architecture

Completion year: 1967
Architect: Bertrand Goldberg

“In our ‘cities within cities’ we shall turn our streets up into the air, and stack the daytime and night-time use of our land.” —Bertrand Goldberg

Architect Bertrand Goldberg envisioned Marina City, asan urban experiment designed to draw middle-class Chicagoans back Source: Google images to the city after more than a decade of suburban migration.

By creating a city within a city, Goldberg hoped the convenience of living and playing close to work would help make Marina City a success. But his own ideas of modular, prefabricated, curved forms are also highlighted in the design of Marina City.

Goldberg believed that “Since no right angles exist in nature, none should exist in architecture”. That belief is clearly at work in the 65-story residential towers design. Goldberg compared the bays on Marina Towers to “the petals of a sunflower. They radiate from the building’s strong central core and provide stunning balcony views for each wedge-shaped residential unit”.

The curvilinear reinforced concrete forms became a trademark of Goldberg’s style.

11. Lake Point Tower | Chicago Architecture

Completed year: 1968
Architect: John Heinrich and George Schipporeit.


Lake Point Tower is a high-rise residential building located on a promontory of the Lake Michigan lakefront in downtown Chicago, just north of the Chicago River. It was the highest apartment building in the world at that time, with the height of 645 feet.
This iconic building is designed by John Heinrich and George Schipporeit who were students of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The building’s curves were calculated so residents cannot see into each other’s windows. The three arms are equally spaced at 120 degree angles.

Pioneered the concept of the “Park in the City” being the first such residential complex in a major city to have a two and one half acre park, a duck pond, and waterfalls three stories above ground. The building also features an assortment of shops and restaurants on the second and ground levels of the complex, under the third floor park.

Landscape architect Alfred Caldwell designed gardens for the entire roof of the pedestal, but the small section east of the tower was never developed. Lake Point Tower is the only tall building in Chicago east of Lake Shore Drive; a city ordinance prohibits construction of any others.

12. John Hancock Building

Completion year: 1969
Architect: Bruce Graham

The best example for Chicago’s role in innovative skyscraper design is none other than 875 N. Michigan Ave (John Hancock Centre). This 1,499-foot (456.9-meter) skyscraper’s ground-breaking engineering helped to make buildings taller than 100 stories.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill chose a bold form for the 875 N. Michigan Ave. The tapered rectangular tube with giant trusses on each of the four sides doesn’t hide how the building stands up. The X-bracing on the building’s exterior enables it to resist wind loads. The lateral load-resisting system also reduces the need for internal columns; opening up the building’s interior and increasing available floor space.

Engineer Fazlur Khan’s idea of the “trussed tube system” was an important stage in the development of the skyscraper. This design made it possible to build to unprecedented heights.

Today, the building’s tenants include a mix of residential apartments, retail and office spaces, and a 94th-floor café and observatory where visitors enjoy a 360-degree view of the city. On hot summer days, the building’s street-level plaza serves as an oasis in the middle of the city, complete with a lush garden and a waterfall.

13. Willis Tower

Completion year: 1974
Architect: Bruce Graham

Willis Tower, theworld 23rd-tallest building, is 110- story, 1450-foot (442.1 m) height. Thisiconic skyscraper is located in Chicago, Illinois, currently functioning as commercial office space.

For nearly 25 years after its completion, the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, After its completion in 1973, it become the world’s tallest building and currently, it’ the third tallest building in the United states and the Western hemisphere

Standing 110 stories tall, its black aluminium and bronze-tinted glass exterior has become emblematic of Chicago. This iconic tower laid the foundation for the super tall buildings being built today.

Although its record-breaking height has been surpassed several times over, its innovative structural design remains noteworthy. It’s one of Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations till now.

This tower is considered a seminal achievement for Architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan. They utilized the concept of bundled tube system to address structural problems. Their use of the innovative system ushered in a whole new era of skyscrapers.

This tower comprised of cluster of nine tubes connected together to act as a single unit and strengthening the structure as a whole. Meanwhile, the variations in tube height disrupt the force of the wind.

14. Aqua Tower

Completion year: 2009
Architect: Studio gang architects

From the moment it appeared on the Chicago skyline, the Aqua Tower has earned numerous awards for design excellence. The Aqua Tower’s design is a brilliant new approach to the problem faced by all architects for a long period of timehow 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.

Each individual balcony is unique in size, shape and protrusion, allowing residents to chat with neighbours above or below. The balconies also help to break wind vortices, minimize wind shear, and shade neighbouring apartments. Each balcony is part of a greater floor slab. Contractors used GPS coordinates to precisely pour each of the 82 designs. Building Aqua was a feat of engineering.

The curving white concrete balconies and coloured glass create the impression of water cascading down the building’s sides. The building’s water motif connects residents and visitors to the city’s most remarkable natural landform.

15. Vista Tower | Chicago Architecture

Completion year: On-going Project (2020)
Architect: Jeanne gang

Vista tower, a supertall skyscraper, is the newest and most noticeable addition to Chicago’s famous skyline, reached a notable construction milestone, last month.

Vista Tower, is now Chicago’s third tallest building, with the height of 1,191 ft. (363 m)started its construction in August 2016 with expected completion in 2020. Designed by a team led by Architect Jeanne Gang, Vista will supplant the nearby Aqua skyscraper (also designed by a team led by Jeanne Gang) as the tallest structure in the world designed by a woman. These towers will make Chicago home to the two tallest structures designed by a woman.

Its angular is made up of three stacks of geometric “frustums” wrapped in eight different shades of glass, emphasizing its undulating form. This Super tall skyscraper is considered to be “the important turning point in Chicago’s future skyline” and contains 396 luxury condos, a 192-rooms five-star hotel, and impressive amenities.