Popular 21st Century Chicago Architecture Styles

09 May 2019

Chicago is the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. The Windy City is home to infamous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Over the years, the Chicago skyline has seen influence from countless architectural styles such as Art Deco, Gothic, Tudor, and more.

Chicago architecture has evolved over the years and continues to evolve well into the 21st century. The current day has seen a grand emergence of modern and contemporary architecture. Here we’ll define those 21st century influential architecture styles and discuss the most prominent examples of these architectural styles in the current Chicago skyline:

Modern Architectural Style

Modern architecture is defined by a minimalistic style that incorporates new and innovative construction technologies such as glass, steel, and reinforced concrete. Modernistic architecture was extremely popular in the late 20th century and it has made its way into the 21st century.

Traditionally, modern architecture exhibits a lack of ornamentation while utilizing straight, clean, and functional design. Common features seen in modernistic buildings are:

  • Clean lines
  • Geometric designs and shapes
  • Open floor plans
  • Use of innovative materials

Modern architecture can be seen throughout the Chicago skyline. Here are a few examples of 21st century modern buildings:

Trump International Hotel & Tower

Trump International Hotel & Tower was completed in 2009 and is a quintessential example of Chicago modernistic architecture in the 21st century. This 98-story hotel and condominiumminium residential building features the traditional clean lines and geometric design of modern architecture. From top to bottom, Trump International Hotel & Tower features glass windows – a very common feature of modernistic architecture.

Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago saw a dramatic shift from its neoclassical architectural influence with the addition of its Modern Wing in 2009. The Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, largely relies on glass and limestone, pulling in natural light from every angle. Although this building is dramatically independent from the traditional Art Institute architecture, it still manages to echo the past architectural influence.

Contemporary Architectural Style

Contemporary architecture is often confused with modern, but these two architectural styles have their differences. Contemporary architecture is a newer style utilizing innovation and new thinking. Common features seen in contemporary architecture are:

  • Emphasis on natural lighting
  • Embrace of nature
  • Utilization of green, sustainable, and non-toxic materials

Contemporary architecture is exemplified throughout Chicago’s skyline. Including Millennium park, and Pritzker Pavilion.

Millennium Park & Pritzker Pavilion

Millennium Park may be the most significant embrace of contemporary architecture throughout all of Chicago. Construction of this iconic park completed in 2004. Millennium Park features works from multiple architects including the well-known Frank Gehry.

Pritzker Pavilion, an entertainment venue located within the park, embraces contemporary architecture with the utilization of innovative materials, embrace of nature, and the inclusion of natural lighting. Gehry’s iconic stainless steel curbed ribbons are now a Chicago staple.

Postmodern Architectural Style

Postmodern architecture is a reaction to and an off-shoot of the previously discussed modern architecture style. It emerged as a reaction to the constraints and shortcomings of modern architecture such as its rigid structures and uniformity.

Postmodernism embraces original and unexpected shapes within design and often features:

  • Classical and grand motifs
  • Bright colors
  • Inventive structural design
  • Innovative material use

The Aqua Tower is one of the most recognizable postmodern buildings in Chicago:

Aqua Tower

Aqua Tower is one of the most innovative and inventive structures created in Chicago’s history. Completed in 2009, this tower is the tallest building ever designed by a woman. The architect Jeanne Gang designed this flowing building mimicking water ripples, hence the name, Aqua Tower.

The architectural style here is often referred to as blobitecture – a subset of postmodernism.

The Future of Chicago Architecture

Chicago is in the midst of a construction boom meaning the 21st century will bring many new iconic architectural designs. These buildings will bring about a new era for Chicago architecture.

An extremely significant building expected soon in the Vista Tower. The Vista Tower, opening in 2020, is expected to be a crystalline skyscraper offering dramatic views while blending into one with nature. This postmodern structure is also designed by iconic architect Jeanne Gang and will soon outrank her record-breaking Aqua Tower as the tallest building in the world to be designed by a female architect.

Another anticipated development is the coinciding projects of Cirrus and Cascade. Cascade, a 37-story lakeshore apartment building, and Cirrus, a 47-story lakefront condominiumminium building, will break ground in the summer of 2019. These buildings are set to fill vacant space in the coveted Lakeshore East neighborhood.

Chicago is truly a hub for architectural styles of all kinds. For more information on how we incorporate quality architectural design within our developments, reach out to Focus today!

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