20 MOST BEAUTIFUL BUILDINGS IN CHICAGO
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20. Chicago Temple Building Completed in 1924 This 23-story sacred space is home to the First United Methodist Church of Chicago, the oldest church in the city—it has occupied this spot on the corner of Washington and Clark Streets since 1838. Constructing this skyscraper—the tallest building in the city from its completion in 1924 until it was surpassed by the Board of Trade in 1930—was a statement of its commitment to the city amid pressure to move to the suburbs. Its spire and enormous steeple, done in a Neo-Gothic style similar to Tribune Tower, which was finished the year after the Temple Building, serve as a beacon standing sentry over Daley Plaza. Fun fact Most of the building’s floors are rented as office space, with the proximity to government offices making it popular with lawyers; Clarence Darrow once had an office on the sixth floor.
19. Wrigley Field Completed in 1914 The Friendly Confines is celebrating its 100th birthday this year (making it six years younger than the Cubs’ last championship). As the neighborhood around it has evolved, the park has, too—including, in recent decades, the controversial installation of lights in 1988, the bleacher expansion in 2005 and the tackiness of the “Captain Morgan Club.” And the current Cubs owners, the Ricketts family, appear likely to continue pushing for revenue-generating “modernizations.” But like its baseball club, Wrigley remains lovable—and we’d argue it’s because of the interplay between its history and its environs. Fun fact It’s the oldest surviving National League ballpark, giving fans a taste of baseball’s golden age from seats that offer a view of both the legendary ivy and a thriving surrounding neighborhood instead of a sea of suburban parking lots.
18. Reva + David Logan Center For The Arts Completed in 2012 Of the three structures that make up this modernist cluster of the University of Chicago, it’s the Jenga-like limestone tower that draws the eye and wins a place on this list, not its lower siblings with the sawtooth solar and green rooftops. The overall look is stereotypical of today, all sharp angles and eco-consciousness, to the point of looking ripped from the pages of Dwell or Monocle. But there’s also the look of a child’s toy or a puzzle, as if it were designed by Lego. It announces that you’re going to get heady arts with a playful spirit. Fun fact The $35 million donation by Reva and David Logan is believed to be the single largest cash gift to the arts in the city of Chicago.
17. Thalia Hall Completed in 1892 In 2013, Thalia Hall opened as home to Dusek’s Board & Beer and Punch House and, in 2014, the building opened its concert space. Great idea, right? John Dusek had a similar idea in the 1890s, when he created Thalia Hall to showcase entertainers from Bohemia, as Pilsen had a huge Bohemian population (the neighborhood is named for the second-largest city in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic). The space, designed by the architectural firm of Faber and Pagels, still has its original ceilings and light fixtures. The building has also included a movie theater, community gathering space, apartments and retail. Fun fact The building is modeled after the Prague opera house and named for the Greek muse of comedy.
16. The Aqua Completed in 2009 Is there a more appropriately named skyscraper? Concrete balconies ripple like foaming waves over the sea-blue glass on Jeanne Gang’s award-winner. The sinuous projections also recall topographic maps and those cardboard dinosaur skeleton kits you get at the Field Museum. Studio Gang’s masterpiece (to date) announces that the future is going to not only be better for the environment, but better for the eye and imagination as well. Fun fact The underground garage features the city’s first public electric car charging stations.
15. John Hancock Center John Hancock Center, 875 N Michigan Ave Completed in 1969 The John Hancock Center, which towers over Streeterville, has offices and residences plus television and communications equipment, and retail, but it’s best known for the 94th-floor observatory, where you’ll find Tilt, the simultaneously cool and terrifying new feature that tips you out 1,000 feet above the city. Want to bypass the line? Head up to Signature Room at the 95th, a bar and restaurant, where you’ll get the same view and a drink. Fun fact The building’s base used to be covered in marble, but it was replaced with gray granite in 1994. Before the marble was removed, the building was compared to a tuxedoed man wearing white socks.
14. Joe + Riks Mansueto Building Completed in 2011 Standing in stark contrast to the brutalist architecture of the nearby Regenstein Library, this striking domed structure brings a touch of modernity to the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. The only part of the $81 million structure that most visitors will ever see is the naturally lit reading room, which allows students to study beneath the sky. But the elliptic dome is just the tip of the library: The majority of the structure is subterranean, housing up to 3.5 million books in five floors of storage space that are accessible via an automated retrieval system that can produce a book in five minutes or less. Fun fact All of the glass located more than 18 feet above ground is coated with tiny ceramic dots that reduce the glass’s transparency, making it more visible to birds.
13. 35 E Wacker Aka : The Jewelers Building Completed in 1927 Originally erected to cater to the city’s diamond jewelers, this building has a few notable features, including the Father Time clock and the dome on the roof, but its most intriguing feature hasn’t existed for decades. The former Jeweler’s Building used to contain an auto elevator that traveled up to the 22nd floor, allowing its tenants to travel safely to their office without fear of having their precious bags of gems stolen. These days, the unique exterior of Joachim G. Giaver and Frederick P. Dinkelberg’s structure can be found in film and TV, including Batman Begins, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Good Wife. Fun fact Al Capone was a frequent patron of the Stratosphere Lounge, a restaurant that was once located in the building’s dome.
12. Monadnock Building Completed in 1893 Its thick, curving exterior and rust-brown brick are stunning but, for us, it’s the interior of the Monadnock that makes it special. Pull open the heavy wood-and-glass doors and you’re transported to the 1890s. The businesses on the first floor all have gorgeous wood doors with brass knobs and the name of the store written in gold on glass. Its mosaic tile floor gleams. Filament bulbs hang from brass light fixtures on the ceiling. Ornate silver metalwork adorns the first-floor staircase. It’s by far the most gorgeous way to walk from Jackson to Van Buren. Fun fact Monadnock is the name of a mountain in the developers’ native New England
11. Rookery ompleted in 1888 The warm, reddish-brown exterior of The Rookery instantly sets it apart from the surrounding Loop skyscrapers. Look closer and you’ll find beautiful details in the columns and windows where architects Daniel Burnham and John Root drew from multiple architectural styles. Burnham and Root must have been proud of the building, as they set up shop in it to plan the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The breathtaking light court was updated by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905 and features an impressive glass ceiling, marble columns and sweeping staircases. Fun fact It’s the oldest standing skyscraper in the world.
10. Edgewater Beach Apartments Completed in 1928 The northern reaches of Sheridan Road have an air of the ring-a-ding-ding seaside resorts of yore. At the start of a long row of mod condo towers and erstwhile hotels, the Edgewater Beach Apartments sit like a massive pink wedding cake or something from a Wes Anderson movie. Benjamin Marshall of Marshall and Fox designed the X-shaped structure to complement its yellow twin, the Edgewater Beach Hotel, built 12 years prior in 1916. The hotel is long gone, but something romantic and nostalgic remains about this place, even as it shows its wrinkles. As you sit in the unavoidable traffic outside, you expect to see the ghost of Marilyn Monroe (who stayed here) shopping for hats and vanilla ice cream. Fun fact Big bands led by swing titans like Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller played here and broadcast on the Edgewater Beach Apartment’s own radio station, WEBH.
9. Roble House 5757 South Woodlawn Completed in 1910 Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Robie House as a residence for the Robie family (who only lived in the house for 14 months, before financial difficulties required them to sell it), and the Prairie Style building has also been a dormitory and dining hall for the Chicago Theological Seminary, the University of Chicago Alumni Association and the Adlai E. Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. The house, which consists of two long, box-like sections that meet in the middle, is a great example of Prairie Style architecture, which echoes the lines of the Midwestern landscape. In 1997, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust restored the house, which is open for public tours. Fun fact Wright designed the interiors of his Prairie houses as well, selecting the furniture, lighting and other elements to best suit the space.
8. Wrigley Building Completed in 1924 Really two buildings connected by a walkway on the 14th floor, the Wrigley Building commands attention from its perch on the Chicago River due to its beauty, of course, but also because bright lights illuminate its six shades of white stone every evening. Perhaps the best vantage point to appreciate the building is from the Terrace at Trump Tower, where you can get an up-close look at the two-story-tall clock face and notice details you can’t see from the ground. Fun fact This was the first office building in Chicago to have air conditioning. Noteable new tenants include Walgreens
7. Museum Of Science + Industry Completed in 1893 The Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the old Palace of Fine Arts Building, one of two remaining structures from the 1893 World’s Fair (the Art Institute building was partly funded by the Fair). While most of the buildings at the fair were temporary, the Palace of Fine Arts was not, and it was made of brick, with a plaster exterior. During the fair, it showcased 10,000 works of art, primarily American and European oil paintings. The building was spruced up a bit when it became the MSI in 1933—the exterior is now made from limestone, and there’s a brand new interior. Fun fact After the fair, the building became the Columbian Museum, which focused on natural history and was later renamed the Field Museum. In 1920, the Field relocated to its current space, and in 1933 the Museum of Science and Industry opened.
6. Chicago Board Of Trade Completed in 1930 The Board of Trade Building, one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in Chicago, has a notable cap: a 6,500-pound, 31-foot-tall statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain. The statue, sculpted by John H. Storrs, is a nod to the building’s role in commodities, and it has no face, since Storrs thought the building would be so tall that no one would ever see it. The building has two distinct sections: the original Art Deco tower, which was built in 1930, and the 23-story postmodern expansion that was added to the building’s south side in 1980. Fun fact When it was built (and also after renovations and additions in 1980 and 1997), the trading floor was the largest in the world.
5. Baha’i Temple Wilmette Completed in 1953 It took 41 years to construct this jewel of Wilmette, after the cornerstone was laid by Abdu’l-Baha in 1912. That’s a level of patience and detail only afforded by religious structures. One of seven Bahá’í temples on the globe, all of them shaped as a nonagon, the North American dome is perhaps the most classicist. Architect Louis Bourgeois (insert North Shore joke here) gave our lakefront a taste of the old far east. There are fewer more beautiful ways to laze away an afternoon than strolling through flowers in the surrounding gardens. Fun fact Rainn Wilson of The Office and soft-rock duo Seals and Crofts are of the Bahá’í faith and have visited the tem
4. Civic Opera House Completed in 1926 This Nouveau beauty’s got it going on in the back side. As you cross the Madison Street bridge, the monolithic Civic Opera House stunningly looms over the Chicago River, a sheer cliff of Art Deco stone. The throne-shaped home of the Lyric Opera was the dream of electricity magnate and billionaire Samuel Insull, and was designed by the firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White. Even the font is fantastic—CIVIC OPERA BVILDING cast humbly against the blank wall. Trump should have been taking notes. Fun fact Citizen Kane was partly based on Samuel Insull, especially the bits with Susan the opera singer.
3. Tribune Tower Completed in 1925 When the Tribune decided to build a new office on its 75th anniversary in 1922, it held a contest to pick a new design for “the world’s most beautiful office building.” The winning design, a neo-Gothic building with flying buttresses and spires, came from New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond M. Hood (later the namesakes of the first-floor restaurant, which has a heck of a beer selection). The 36-story building is made with a steel frame and Indiana limestone, the same kind of rock that covers the walls in Howells & Hood. Fun fact The exterior base of the Tower features embedded stones from locations around the world, including the Alamo and the Great Wall of China. And stones are still being added: After 9/11, a piece from the World Trade Center was attached. It was also the site of the 1st ever Taste Of Chicago
2. Marina City Completed in 1964 Architect Bertrand Goldberg had grand designs for Marina City when he began planning the project in 1959, envisioning a city within a city, with apartments, shops, restaurants and offices sharing a complex of buildings. Built on a piece of prime riverfront property, the development was one of the first projects to combine residential and commercial use on such a large scale. Today, the 65-story towers have been converted into condominiums, the complex’s theater houses the House of Blues and the former office building is now a hotel. Much has changed, but the majestic concrete swells of the iconic cylindrical towers still stand out amid a city full of angular structures. Fun fact Marina City was the first building in the United States to be constructed using a tower crane.
1. CARBON & CARBIDE BUILDING AKA : The Hardrock Hotel 230 N Michigan Avenue Completed in 1929 From its golden spire and gold leaf–draped cornices down to the brass metalwork above its entrances, this Art Deco gem exudes the excesses of the Roaring ’20s. What sets it apart, though, are the building’s green terra cotta tiles, which are said to mimic a champagne bottle, and the tower its foil top. In a sea of gray and glass, this skyscraper is as refreshing as a glass of bubbly. Fun fact The building’s architects were Daniel and Hubert Burnham, sons of Chicago’s favorite city planner Daniel Burnham.
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