High-rise architecture, steel-frame skyscrapers, the modern American metropolis – Chicago gave birth to all three, establishing itself as the collective architectural tour-de-force of Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the likes.
The following architectural approaches have helped shape not only the city of Chicago as we know it but also the global history of design and commercial real estate.
Chicago rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871 higher, more versatile, and more resistant than ever. Something great came of this catastrophe – the use of white terracotta, which will become a signature sign of the city’s architecture in centuries to follow.
Among many other architectural approaches that involve this elegant fire-resistant solution, Sullivan Center must be the most striking. Originally the Carson Pirie Scott and Co. Building, this massive commercial building was designed by the formidable Louis Sullivan.
The Sullivan Center went down in history as one of the early examples of steel framing as well, but this architectural approach was not unfamiliar to Chicagoans before Sullivan. The Rookery, designed by Danial Burnham in 1888, features this building technique too.
But Burnham’s Romanesque building remains influential for another reason, and ironically, another architect. In 1905, Frank Lloyd Wright joined the project to deliver what is now known as one of the most fluid and naturally lit office spaces in Chicago and beyond.
It’s a shame to discuss Chicago architecture without mentioning the Willis Tower. The Willis Tower (formerly Sears) was the first of its kind. In 1974, the 108-story Willis Tower opened its doors as the tallest building on Earth.
The structural engineer heading this project, Fazlar Khan, revolutionized the world of skyscraper design. Khan made record-breaking height skyscraper construction possible by creating lighter structures. He utilized external skeletons and tube frames to remove the excess weight of the traditional skyscraper, thus creating the tallest skyscraper in the world for a quarter of a century.
Chicago design approach defies natural elements, as you can see in Sullivan’s white terracotta and the fluidity of open spaces in Wright’s Light Court in The Rookery. This city has shaped the future of modern architecture forever. For groundbreaking Chicago architectural developments, reach out to Focus today!