The Most Captivating Buildings in the Windy City
Anyone who has even the slightest insight on architecture knows that Chicago is world-renowned for its architectural marvels which make up its iconic skyline. The city was once home to the tallest building in the world, but its architectural aspirations go far more than just mere building height. There are dozens upon dozens of intricately designed buildings within Chicago’s skyline, and unlike New York’s seemingly bland style, most tall skyscrapers in the Windy City have their own unique style which they’re known for.
It’s not uncommon to see architecture students taking a field trip though Chicago’s metropolitan area to take in the architectural wonders of its building and infrastructure. There are over 50 well-known buildings in Chicago whose design takes on a life of its own, but the following are definitely the most iconic and well-known of them all:
The Tribute Tower – 435 N Michigan Ave
Completed in 1925 after The Tribune’s 75th anniversary, the buildings intent was to give The Tribune a new headquarters. It was designed by New York-native architects John Mead Howells and Raymond M. Hood after their design for the building won the contest which The Tribune held that would determine who could design their new HQ. The two architects remained forever in the building’s legacy in the namesake of the restaurant located on the first floor of the building.
The construct itself has 36 stories and is made with steel frame and Indiana limestone. In addition, the exterior base of this monumental building features pieces and stones from iconic locations around the world such as the Alamo and the Great Wall of China. It even holds a piece of the World Trade Center after it collapsed in 2001.
Marina City – 300 N State St
Designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg and created in 1964, the Marina City ‘corncob’ towers were made to be bustling complexes with apartments, shops, restaurants and workplaces. Bertrand Goldberg conceived the idea as envisioning a ‘city within a city. They were built on prime Riverfront property and were one of the first examples of large-scale residential and commercial use. They were also the first buildings in the US to be constructed using a tower crane. Towering at 65 stories high, the Marina City buildings are an iconic piece of Chicago’s skyline which are now mostly used as condominiums. The theater house area is nowadays converted to ‘The House of Blues’, and the office building is now a hotel. Every Chicagoan is familiar with these two towers, aptly dubbing them the ‘corncob’ buildings.
Carbide & Carbon Building – 230 N Michigan Ave
This building is also known as ‘The Hard Rock Hotel’, and is a shining example of the best the roaring 20s had to offer. Completed in 1929, the building was designed by architect brothers Daniel and Hubert Burnham, sons of Chicago’s most famed city planner Daniel Burhnam. Their flashy design is clearly visible throughout the whole structure, from bottom to top – the golden spire and gold leaf-draped cornices give it its iconic shine, and the brass metalwork above its entrances make it just attractive on street-level as it is from afar. In a city full of grey towering skyscrapers, the Carbide & Carbon building stands out like a golden, reflective glass of champagne, and is one of the if not THE most attractive buildings in the Windy City.
John Hancock Center – 875 N Michigan Ave
Just down the road from the Carbide & Carbon building rests one of Chicago’s most easily recognizable behemoths known as the John Hancock Center. Aside from the architectural prowess that went into it from chief designer Bruce Graham, John Hancock Center is home to a few cool activities you can partake in inside of it. A restaurant known as The Signature Room rests on its 95th floor, and offers a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan and the city below. There’s also an observatory here which is part of the building’s Skydeck, and offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding city, Lake Michigan a well as the four surrounding states, with a field of view that stretches 80 miles out. The buildings unbreakable sturdiness is part of a structural expressionist style of architecture. The ‘tubular system’ of its structural integrity was created Bangladeshi-American structural civil engineer Fazlur Khan, while Bruce Graham designed the exterior facade.
Chicago Cultural Center – 78 E Washington St
After the Great Chicago Fire destroyed Chicago’s sole public reading room in 1871, England donated 8,000 books to the Windy City, which needed to be housed somewhere. That’s when the idea for creating this architectural marvel was conceived, and the Chicago Cultural Center – Chicago’s first public library – was built in 1897. Designed by architectural firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, the building’s ornate granite and limestone structure features captivating marble halls and two phenomenal stained-glass domes measuring over 30 feet in diameter. Free public events such as music, dance and theater events are frequently held here as well as art exhibitions, films, lectures, free speech nights and so on. This makes it one of the most flocked-to locations in Chicago by both locals and tourists, and anyone who has even the slightest appreciation for culture should make it a necessity to come here while visiting Chicago.