Chicago: Built on Architecture
Since the Great Chicago Fire, architects and builders from around the world have come to Chicago to lend their creativity, ingenuity and skill, making this city the cradle of modern architecture. The skyscraper was born here in 1885 (at a neck-craning 10 stories). Since then, men and women from Louis Sullivan and Daniel Burnham to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Jeanne Gang have continued to push the envelope with innovation.
We explored three Chicago-area neighborhoods and towns, the Loop, Lake Forest and Oak Park, to see three very different sides of architecture and how they influence the way we live, work and play.
It is an exciting time to be in the Loop. Chicago’s long-time business center more recently has become a bustling residential neighborhood. Condominium and apartment high rises are being constructed offering appealing amenities, both inside and around the buildings. There are gorgeous outdoor space including Millennium Park and the Riverwalk. Many new restaurants, rooftop bars, theaters, shops and activities beckon as well. Organizations like the Chicago Architecture Foundation offer walking tours through the Loop to showcase some of the world’s greatest buildings like the Rookery, the Monadnock Building, Board of Trade, Carbide & Carbon Building, the Auditorium Theatre and Sears Tower (yes, we’re still calling it by its original name). Various styles from Neo-classical to Art Deco to modern illustrate Chicago’s rich architectural history, all within a few blocks. The Chicago Cultural Center is currently hosting the first-ever Chicago Architecture Biennial taking place through early January showcasing design from around the world.
If you have never taken a trip up to Lake Forest on a beautiful day to drive around the tony North Shore village, you’ve been missing out. With more than 500 historic structures, Lake Forest showcases many forms of architecture in its homes, city hall, train station, and its crown jewel, Market Square, right in downtown. Architects like David Adler and Howard Van Doren Shaw helped shape the look of the town. Shaw’s own summer cottage, Ragdale, is now an artist community and retreat, where artists from around the world come throughout the year to paint, write, build and design. To see some of the most beautiful homes in town, head east from downtown through Lake Forest College and down to Forest Park and Lake Michigan. Then drive along Lake Road and Green Bay Road to marvel at the area’s sprawling estates.
Oak Park, the creative community just to the west of Chicago, has the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the world. The famed architect built his home and studio there in the late 1800s and literally transformed the way we live. Wright took the small boxy, dark spaces influenced by Victorian-era design and introduced the Prairie Style where home and nature blend together. He opened up living spaces and allowed natural light to flow into and throughout homes. But there are many reasons to visit Oak Park besides the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. The town has a vibrant restaurant scene, fantastic local shopping and even its own symphony. And it is just minutes from downtown Chicago.