Week 2

  1. 190 S LaSalle

The 190 S LaSalle is a 40-story skyscraper designed by Johson/Burgee Architects and completed in 1987. This post modern architecture has a unique gabled roof referencing the demolished Masonic Temple Building.

The lobby recalls classical buildings to me, with polished colored marbles, gold leaf groin vault ceiling. The dimension of the lobby dwarfs each individual inside of it. It is divided in to three bays, the central bay leads to the elevator core. Taking the elevator, I went to the top floor to check the famous roof library. The library takes three quarters of the cross-shaped top floor, with one arms pointing to the Willis tower, another one to the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and the third to Lake Michigan direction. Windows at the end of each arm is around 2 story tall with an oculus on top, bring abundant natural light into the space. The library is divided into many small niche spaces under a second story corridor along the walls. Some of those cave-like spaces are used for reading, some are bars and social space.


Check the 360 view of the library (right click “run plug-in” if cannot display)

  1. The Rookery

The Rookery building was designed by Burnham and Root, and completed in 1888. A two story court yard is put in the center of the building in a symmetrical Beaux-Arts style. It was remodeled by Frank L Wright later in 1905. Like many buildings in Chicago, the name Rookery has political references as the original site was occupied by the old City Hall.

What we see today of the lobby is pretty much restored as Frank L Wright’s original design, featuring white Carrara marble with gold leafed incising in “Moorish” patterns.It gives a sense of luxury to the lobby, and makes the light and elegant interior a huge contrast with the monolithic looks of the exterior. Like the Alhambra, rough outside but delicate inside. The vestibule brings the gigantic size of the entrance down to a human scale with even lowered ceiling of the elevator core. However, after passing the narrowed space flanked by three elevator doors on each side with elaborate crows and pigeons patterns on top of it, the white courtyard comes right in front of me. The steel-laden roof are painted white, matches with the marbles, and creates an enjoyable atmosphere for the inside. Heavily decorated stairs wind upwards to higher floor.

rookery rookery2

Check the 360 view of the courtyard

  1. Bank of America

Chicago Bank of America building is an Art Deco style building, with simple but strong geometry and lines to emphasis verticality. The entrance is framed by the black marble veneer wall with columns featuring simplified doric characteristics. Inside, the courtyard or lobby is a big space of three stories tall, surrounded by dark wood Classical columns and rails on the second story. The painted coffer ceiling recalls me of trompe l’oeil ceiling paintings in the Gallery of Tapestries.

boa  Partially photo credit: Mike Herbert

  1. Monadnock Building

The Monadnock building was a business success at the south loop. The first phase, the north part is designed by Burnham&Root around 1891. It employed the iron frame with exterior load bearing wall, the tallest with such structure in history. The contoured brown bricks give a gentle bell shape of the base and the upper cornice, with many decorative motifs referencing Ancient Egyptian architecture. The south part is designed by Holabird&Roche, after the success of the north one. Heavy steel frames are adopted in construction, resulting a different thickness of the exterior walls. The base was emphasized and a big cornice was put up to make it more Classical looking. This building is featured with typical Chicago windows, with two side panels on both sides. Aluminum was first used as a structural stairs in this building.

The corridor is narrow and dark, nostalgic light bulbs lit up the mosaic tiles and the metal rails. Along the corridor, one side is small stores with connections to both outside and inside. Many of them are doing old fashioned hat making or shoe making.


  1. Chicago Board of Trade

The Chicago Board of Trade Building (CBOT) was designed by Holabird&Root in the 30s. It was the highest building in Chicago until surpassed by Daley Center in 1965. CBOT stands right at the end of South LaSalle, A faceless goddess Ceres stands on top of the building, indicating the agricultural trading function of the building. The whole building is typical Art Deco style, with emphasis on lines and verticality of the building. Ornament is limited, only around the entrance and at the top part of the building. Native American elements are incorporated into the design to make it “vernacular”. Inside, large amount of aluminium was used to express the modern technology. Lines and simply geometry indicates movements and express a sense of futurism. The main lobby is surrounded by balconies and corridors on the upper levels, with a slight setback. Black and white marbles, alongside with silver and golden metals, makes this lobby an unique space. It feels like a 50s sci-fi movie set.


  1. Chicago Federal Center

The 45 story modernism skyscraper was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and completed in 1974. Together with the courthouse and USPS building, it creates a iconic urban plaza for Chicago. The bright red “flamingo” by Alexander Calder stands in front of the Federal Center on the plaza. Red and black, curves and straight lines, it strongly contrasts with the buildings around it and became the center of the Federal Plaza.


  1. Marquette Building

Marquette building is one of the earliest skyscrapers with steel structure featuring Chicago style windows. The hexagonal atrium supported by a column in the center is really unique. Around the atrium, the golden mosaic frieze by Tiffany studio depicting the expeditions of Jacques Marquette gives a cultural richness and a sense of luxury to the space.


  1. Daley Center

Daley Center is another urban plaza in Chicago. With the city hall, corten steel Daley Center building around, featuring Picasso’s sculpture, it is one of the most popular spot in the city. A big Christmas tree will be erected every year on the plaza.



Chicago Architecture 1: South Michigan Ave

Week 1

  1. Motorola Building

Also known as Santa Fe Building, it is a 17-story building at south Michigan Avenue. It was designed by Frederick Dinkelberg in the Chicago style. He is also the associate designer of the Flatiron Building. The main entrance was located at Jackson Boulevard. Back then it was more important than Michigan Ave. The building has a similar plan with Rookery, a street level two-story enclosed court designed in a symmetrical Beaux-Arts style, open to the sky surrounded by a ring of offices. Inside the courtyard, the grand staircase led to the second story.

The exterior is cladded with white-glazed terracotta sheaths featured with Classical elements. The structure is steel frames. Daniel Burnham and his staff made the 1909 Plan of Chicago in this building back in history which makes it significant as a historical site.


  1. Metropolitan Tower

Metropolitan Tower was once called the Straus Building, completed in 1924, alongside with Chicago Temple Building, was one of the tallest buildings in Chicago by taking advantage of the 1923 zoning code.

The Tower is symmetric and designed for a monumental feeling. The pyramid and beehive at the top features this building with some others around with similar facades.

The entrance on both Jackson and Michigan Ave is relatively small and humble. It used to have a glorious three-story entrance on Michigan Ave based on old photographs. But from the impressive elaborate brass elevator doors and sweeping marble floors, I can still get a sense of its glorious past.

metro 1metro 3

  1. Metra Entrance Canopy

Chicago Van Buren metra entrance canopy at south Michigan Ave looks similar to the     Paris metro entrance, with art nouveau style. It is a replica of the Paris metro entrance.

  1. Fine Arts Building

The Tower is symmetric and designed for a monumental feeling. The pyramid and beehive at the top features this building with some others around with similar facades.

The entrance on both Jackson and Michigan Ave is relatively small and humble. It used to have a glorious three-story entrance on Michigan Ave based on old photographs. But from the impressive elaborate brass elevator doors and sweeping marble floors, we can still get a sense of its glorious past.

  1. Auditorium Building and Congress Hotel

The auditorium building was designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler at 1889. It was the biggest theater in the world back then. It was intended to building a theater for the people, the 73m tower marks the entrance of the theater. Decorations on the exterior are limited, simple geometric form indicates the democratic idea of the project, also cuts off from the heavily decorated old European theaters which is connected with corruption and under table deals.

audito 1

The theater part (blue) is in middle, with hotel (pink) facing Lake Michigan, and the office (green) facing the elevated rails.  The hotel is Roosevelt University today. When approaching the entrance, the cantilevered balcony on the second floor caught my eyes. It gives a three dimensional depth to the flat building facades on the Michigan Ave. Massive corbels with simple geometric shape supports the balcony. In between those corbels are three Neo-Romanesque style rounded arches and grand entrances. The scale is huge, bigger than any other entrances on the Michigan Ave. The bronze pediments with geometric decorations bring the entrances down to a human scale. At this level, ashlar masonry change into rustic granites.

Once step inside of the building, I found in contrast with the door,interior space of the lobby is gigantic. On the left side, the grand stairs leads to the second floor, on the other side, the waiting area is surrounded by marble walls with delicate alabaster decorative archivolts and cornice. All the handrails are made of bass, with typical Sullivan style. The top floor was a grand dining room with great view to Lake Michigan, but used as a library for right now. The wood Doric columns with decorative capitals and the golden ceiling make the space glorious and warm.

audito 2

  1. Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning

The Spertus Institute is one of the few buildings with a gemlike modern facade on the South Michigan Ave. The folding facade gives this Jewish institute a unique character, but more important, articulates the concept of “light”. The facade does not only bring light into the building physically, but also indicates the concept of “enlightenment through learning”.

The vestibule generous in size, and it is filled with light and has a visual connection with the street outside, implying the “transparency” of the facility. Front desk is secured by a second layer of doors, which is also necessary for hash winter in Chicago. A small art gallery is on the other side of the vestibule. After entering the main lobby, the origami-like folding wall caught my eyes. It stretches all the way to the third floor. Behind that wall is the main theater, no big in size, but great in details. The library is located at the 8th floor, study areas are either lit up by natural light from the facade or from a skylit. 10th floor is a multi-functional space right now, perfect for parties and events. A small Jewish collections in at the back of the space. The roof floor features with a small conference room and a terrace. The conference room has a cantilevered deck,due to the folding of the facade which provides a unique perspective of the South Michigan Ave.

jewish 2jewish 1Photo credit: author

Source: AIA Guide to Chicago, varies online sources