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Chicago: The World’s Most Architecturally Dynamic City

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Chicago has always been labelled second best after New York City, however the city’s innovation for design has made it one of the most dynamic cities in the world in terms of architectural design.

Throughout the past century, Chicago buildings have played a role in influencing architectural style both nationally and internationally.
The Legacy of the Skyscraper
After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the city attracted thousands of workers and volunteers to help rebuild and redefine the city. And redefine the city is just what they did - Chicago became the home and birthplace to the first skyscraper.

Chicago's Home Insurance Building in 1884, often considered the world's first skyscraperAfter the fires, downtown Chicago needed a quick recovery and redevelopment to keep business running as normal.

In 1906, Daniel H. Burnham created his “Plan for Chicago”, a broad vision for the urbanisation and beautification of the city. This lead to the creation of parks, fountains and lake front recreation areas.

Prior to the fire, wood was the main building material, however became replaced by fire-resistant brick, stone, and metal.

To cater for the growing number of businesses in downtown Chicago, local preeminent architects – Louis Sullivan, William Le Baron Jenney, John Wellborn Root, and Daniel H. Burnham – designed tall compacted buildings, made from stronger and more supportive materials, on small commercial blocks. Thus the skyscraper was born.

The skyline of Chicago, and other cities across North America, would never be the same.
Chicago School of Architecture

Chicago School of Architecture

played a vital role in construction innovation in late 19th Century, such as using steel frames and large glass plates for façades.

Architects of the Chicago School revolutionised tall buildings by removing the thick heavy walls used to support tall structures and replacing them with light steel frames.

Many Chicago School designed buildings have been demolished over the years, however, a few of the buildings still stand including the Reliance Building and the Carson Pirie Scott & Company Building.

The Historic Hotel Burnham, aka Reliance Building, Chicago, IL

The Reliance Building at State and Washington, designed by Root and Burnham, opened in 1895 as the first office building to have electricity and telephones in all offices.

The Reliance Building helped Chicago School make their first substantial print in their portfolio. The Reliance Building is now home to Hotel Burnham.

The Carson Pirie Scott & Company Building

at State and Madison, designed by the father of skyscrapers, Sullivan, opened in 1899. The building is today known as Sullivan Centre.

Thanks to the architects of Chicago School, the skyscraper would become a dominant new design format for metropolitan areas, as the height of a building was no longer a barrier in design.
Celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field


Two of Chicago’s most iconic works or architectural brilliance – Wrigley Field and Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue – were believe it or not, designed and funded by chewing gum Company, Wrigley and Wrigley.

Wrigley Building

Wrigley Field opened in 1914, and celebrated its 100th anniversary earlier this year. The stadiums unique shape and intimate feel, has made Chicago the home to both original and modern baseball park designs.

However, Wrigley Field is not the most impressive architectural design to shape the city of Chicago. Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue also had a significant effect on the city today.

Wrigley Building, designed in 1920 by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, was the first major office building on the north side of Chicago River. Wrigley Building soon became a beautiful piece of iconic art, and the first office building in Chicago to be air-conditioned.
Hancock and Willis


Two of Chicago’s most iconic buildings – Hancock Centre and Willis Tower (previously known as Sears) – fit the city’s persona as big, brash and bold.

Hancock Tower

Both buildings, designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, were opened to the public by early 1970s. The views from both towers observational decks never cease to amaze, with breath taking views of Michigan Lake.

At the time of construction, Willis Tower eclipsed the World Trade Centre as the tallest building in the United States.
Celebrating 10 years of Millennium Park
The 24.5-acre wasteland in the middle of Chicago was transformed into a beautiful open park, which is now the heart of Chicago.

Millennium Park

was first conceived in 1997, when the current mayor had plans to turn the wasteland into a new public space for residents of Chicago.

Millennium ParkThe original plan was to turn 16-acres of land into a recreational park and outdoor music venue.

However, overtime as the plan grew with private investors partnering in the park, the original plan grew into much more.

Today, Millennium Park provides the perfect backdrop to Chicago with the state-of-the-art architecture and landscape design. The park holds many concerts, exhibitions, tours and family outings.

In 2009, Millennium Park was honoured for Urban Excellence.
Chicago’s Next Big Move
Chicago will remain the vibrant heart for architecture and innovation, redefining the way the world designs buildings.

Illinois Institute of Technology

The city has numerous recent projects – Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, the Arts Institute’s Modern Wing, and new state-of-the-art campus buildings at Illinois Institute of Technology – to help keep the prestigious title of the world's most architecturally dynamic city.

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