Thursday, April 25, 2024


Chicago is a metropolis where world-renowned architects have built true architectural masterpieces. Their efforts and wonderful creations continue to attract millions of people from all around the world. The “Windy City” has become home to the world’s first skyscraper and many other objects that fascinate with their beauty, reports

Architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries

Chicago received city status in 1837, and active construction began shortly after. In 1871, one of the greatest tragedies in the city’s history occurred – a massive fire, which destroyed most of the buildings in two days and killed thousands of residents. In the same year, Chicago re-elected Joseph Medill as mayor. He devised a strategy and enlisted the best architects, who immediately began rebuilding the city.

It can be claimed the development was carried out at an accelerated pace. The World’s Fair dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America was a prominent example of this. Then, almost 20 million people came to Chicago to witness this event.

In addition, this period was distinguished by the convergence of different circumstances, which served as a driving force for the formation of a new architectural direction. Among them, it is worth noting: 

  • the lack of territories for the development of a rapidly developing city
  • the focus on the building’s functionality
  • development of a reinforced concrete frame and safe elevators.

As a result, the Chicago School of Architecture emerged, with William Jenney, Martin Roche and Louis Sullivan serving as its representatives. These geniuses pioneered a new architectural trend of the time known as functionalism.

Even though an eclecticism wave soon arose, mixing styles with the features of antiquity and Renaissance, as well as Sullivan’s notions, are still applied in modern urban development. 

The first skyscraper

Chicago’s first high-rise building was the Home Insurance Building. From 1884 to 1889, it was regarded as the tallest structure in the world (42 meters). According to modern standards, this is a 10-story building. In addition, this was the first skyscraper, during the construction of which a load-bearing frame was used. In 1891, two additional stories were constructed, increasing the total height to 55 meters. In 1931, the structure was demolished. 

Every year, technology improved, and Chicago buildings grew taller, eventually exceeding 100 meters in height.

Legendary creations

The 20th century saw the rise of structures in Chicago that were significantly taller than 200 meters. These buildings are regarded as the city’s business card and the legacy of the metropolis.

The John Hancock Center has 100 floors. It was commissioned in 1970. At the very base of the tapering tower, there are commercial premises, and just below there are offices and a residential area. The skyscraper’s walls are adorned with black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass. The structure on level 94 has a massive observation deck that offers an unsurpassed view. This glass cabin has a unique feature: it swings. 

Another unique skyscraper of the city is the Aon Center. The Art Deco architecture of this tower was designed by Edward Stone in 1972. The building has 83 floors and stands 346 meters tall. At the time of construction, it was thought to be the tallest structure in the world. Initially, the exterior surface was to be marble, but due to severe weathering, the lining was changed to white granite.

The Trump Tower is a true architectural masterpiece of Chicago. The structure, which was erected in 2005, is considered the city’s second-highest skyscraper. Consider this: it rises 432 meters tall! As many as five floors out of 92 are occupied by the hotel, and other levels cover shopping areas and condominiums. This unique high-rise was designed by Adrian Smith. The engineers put all of their expertise and knowledge into the project and utilized modern materials. The skyscraper is made up of three main sections. Low-emissivity glass was utilized in the construction process.

The Willis Tower is a 108-story building with a height of 413 meters. It is a leader among skyscrapers. This masterpiece was completed in 1970, and for 25 years it was the tallest building on the planet. This tower has nine separate structures on concrete piles that go up to the 50th floor. There are seven columns up to the 66th floor, five up to the 90th floor and the last 20 floors make up two large structures. To enjoy the beauty of the city, you can take a high-speed elevator to the 103rd floor, where there are observation decks known as the Skydeck, which have four sliding glass balconies.

In total, the city has 114 skyscrapers. Each of them has distinct characteristics and a unique history. 

As for residential architecture, it was heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School. In the first half of the twentieth century, popular neighborhoods were developed in the architectural style of Chicago bungalows, many of which still exist. 

Chicago isn’t known as the architectural capital of America for nothing. Here are remarkable structures that astound with their originality and creativity. Looking at them, you can fall in love at first sight and feel the spirit of the grand city!

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