Archive for the ‘Chicago Architecture’ Category

Many structures highlighted in this Chicago architectural running tour are found within the first couple miles. The remainder of this tour will highlight buildings on the remaining 24 miles of the marathon route. If you missed the earlier posts, visit the Chicago Marathon architectural tour Mile 1 and the Chicago Marathon architect tour Mile 2

The third mile of the marathon begins as you turn off State Street onto Jackson. The next  building on the route to watch for is the massive Monadnock Block Building (53 W. Jackson  Blvd.) at the corner of Jackson and South Dearborn. This 197-foot tall building lays claim as the world’s first skyscraper, and is the tallest building that is fully supported by load-bearing masonry walls. Burnham & Root designed the north portion of the building that was completed in 1891. The south half was constructed in 1893 and designed by Holabird & Roche. When the south portion was complete, Monadnock Block was the largest office building in the world. Chicago Board of Trade

You are on Jackson for just three blocks before turning onto LaSalle. On your left at the corner of Jackson and LaSalle is the Chicago Board of Trade (141 West Jackson Boulevard). The Art Deco building was designed by Holabird & Root and completed in 1930. Look up to the 13-foot diameter clock and then look all the way up to the top of the building, where a 31-foot-tall sculpture of the Roman goddess Ceres is perched. At 605-feet tall, the 45-story Chicago Board of Trade was the tallest building in Chicago until 1965.

While on LaSalle, between 3.5 and 4 miles, look east and up to see the John Hancock Building (875 N. Michigan Avenue). John Hancock is an excellent example of structural expressionist style. Look for the X-bracing distinctive exterior, an architectural technique that made its record height possible. This 100-story, 1,127-foot skyscraper was the second tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1970, topped only by the Empire State Building. The John Hancock Building is now the sixth tallest building in the U.S., and the fourth tallest in Chicago. Willis Tower, Trump Tower and Aon Center are all taller than John Hancock.

You may have caught glimpses of the Willis Tower earlier, but you will run right past it as you turn from Franklin onto Adams just before Mile 13. The Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower, and affectionately referred to now as “Big Willy”) at 233 S. Wacker Drive was completed in 1974 and reigned as the tallest building in the world until 1998. It is now the ninth tallest building in the world, but still the tallest U.S. building.

Four blocks after you cross the Chicago River, on the right side is the 1856 Old St. Patrick’s Church at 700 West Adams Street. This Romanesque architectural style building is one of only a few structures in the line of fire to survive the Chicago Fire of 1871, making it one of the oldest public buildings in Chicago.

The next buildings of note will be at Mile 23. Settle in and enjoy the run through Greektown, West Loop, Little Italy, the Illinois Medical District, Pilsen and Chinatown. There is plenty to capture your attention. Enjoy the views.

After Mile 22 as you turn onto 33rd Street to run over the Dan Ryan, you will see two red brick and granite Victorian-era buildings. The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Building and Machinery Hall are prominent Romanesque Revival buildings that are in sharp contrast to the many examples of Miesian architecture found throughout the IIT campus.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a pioneer of modern architecture who coined the phrases “Less is more” and “God is in the details.” His glass-and-steel architecture is known for its minimalist simplicity. The Illinois Institute of Technology campus has a number of outstanding examples of his work. There are 20 Mies buildings on the IIT campus and we will run past six of them;

  • Wishnick Hall,3255 South Dearborn
  • Perlstein Hall, 10 West 33rd
  • Siegel Hall, 3301 South Dearborn
  • Crown Hall, 3360 South State
  • Cunningham Hall, 3100 South Michigan
  • Bailey Hall, 3101 South Wabash

At 33rd and Dearborn you will run between two metal and glass buildings; Siegel Hall will be on your right and Wishnick Hall on your left. Perlstein Hall is set back from the road next to Wishnick.  One block after you turn on State Street, you will pass Crown Hall on your right. Many regard Crown Hall as Mies’ finest work. Three buildings comprising the Institute of Gas Technology complex is on the next block, on the same side of the street as Crown Hall.

Cunningham Hall is about five blocks from the Institute of Gas Technology complex on the corner of 31st and Michigan. It will be on your left. Look behind Cunningham Hall and you will see Bailey Hall, a similar structure that is also a Mies design. Mile 24 is two blocks from Cunningham Hall and Bailey Hall.

At Mile 25 you enter the Prairie District. Second Presbyterian Church, located at 1936 S. Michigan Avenue, is on the corner of Michigan and Cullerton. This Gothic Revival building with a limestone and sandstone exterior was constructed in 1874. Architect James Renwick also designed New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C. The building features 20 stained glass windows by artists Louis C. Tiffany, Sir Edward Burne-Jones and others.

After the Second Presbyterian Church, you have just one mile to go. Let’s face it, at this point you probably could care less about anything other than getting to the finish line. You will hit a rise in elevation as you turn right onto Roosevelt. Walk it if you must, and enjoy the fact that you will see the finish line as soon as you turn left onto Michigan.

Good luck!

During the first mile of the Chicago Marathon architectural tour we saw notable structures like Frank Gehry’s pedestrian bridge, Aqua, the NBC Tower and the Tribune Tower, as the route followed Columbus over the Chicago River to Grand Avenue. Most of the second mile is run on State Street, which houses a number of architecturally significant buildings.

 There is a lot going on architecturally at the State Street Bridge. First, look for the Marina Towers located at 300 N. State Street, just before going over the State Street Bridge. These twin towers – they look like concrete corncobs – are of the most recognized of Chicago architectural landmarks. These buildings are credited for spurring an architectural renaissance after their completion in 1967.

The Marina Towers will be on your right. As soon as you pass the Marina Towers, look to your left and straight up for an asymmetric reflective blue skyscraper. This is the Trump Tower one block over at 401 N Wabash Ave. The Trump Hotel, completed in 2009, is the newest addition to the Chicago skyline. It is also the second tallest building in the U.S., topped only by the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), which we will also see along the marathon route. This picture shows both the Marina Towers and Trump Tower.

The Trump Tower is interesting, but don’t spend too much time gawking at it. The Wrigley Building, at 400 N. Michigan Avenue, is directly across the river. Look for a gleaming white terra-cotta clad building with a clock tower. The Wrigley Building, completed in 1924, is an iconic Chicago building that is actually two buildings joined together at street-level and by a skywalk on the 14th floors.

After you cross the river and run 1.5 blocks, look to your left for the landmark Chicago Theatre located at 175 N. State Street. You can’t miss the big red iconic marquee. While the marquee initially commands your attention, make sure to look at the building behind the marquee. Its style is French Baroque and the State Street facade features a scaled-down replica of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris. The building opened in 1921, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and then listed as a Chicago Landmark in 1983.

One block later on the same side of the street is Marshall Field & Co. (officially, it is now Macy’s) at 111 North State Street. This huge 12-story building, covering an entire city block, does nothing small. The Tiffany glass mosaic dome ceiling, covering 6,000 square feet of area, is the largest of its kind in the world. The columns at the State Street entrance are said to be the second largest monolithic columns in the world, second only to columns outside the Egyptian temple at Karnak. You won’t see these two interior design elements but you will see the two massive ornamental Great Clocks, found at the corners of State and Washington and State and Randolph.

The first Marshall Field’s building, located at the present site, was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. Most downtown Chicago buildings were destroyed. You will find only a handful of buildings that predate 1871.

“The Chicago School” style of commercial architecture rose from the ashes of the Chicago Fire. Steel-frame, masonry clad buildings, with large plate-glass windows and minimal exterior ornamentation were distinguishing features of this style.

The Reliance Building (now Hotel Burnham), at 32 N. State Street, epitomizes the Chicago School style. Architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, along with John Root and Charles Atwood, created in 1895 what is now one of the city’s most significant architectural landmarks.

The Monadnock Building is another famous Chicago School building we will see later on the marathon route.

 No discussion of Chicago architecture – and especially the Chicago School of Architecture – is complete without Louis Sullivan. Considered one of America’s greatest architects, Sullivan is hailed as the creator of the modern skyscraper and was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright. Our last building on State Street, located at 1 S. State Street, is a Sullivan design.


The Sullivan Center (formerly the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building) showcases Sullivan’s philosophy of form following function. Like many buildings of the Chicago School style, this steel-frame building is clad in terra cotta. The distinctive ornamentation on this building is a two-story high cast-iron storefront. Look for this at the corner of State and Monroe.

The Old St. Patrick’s Church on Adams Street was one of the few buildings to survive the Chicago Fire. Come back Friday for the last leg of our architectural Chicago Marathon tour, where the Old St. Patrick’s Church, Willis Tower, the Monadnock Building and other buildings will be highlighted before finishing at Buckingham Fountain back in Grant Park.



This upcoming weekend I will be running the Chicago Marathon. Each year about 45,000 people line up to run this marathon. Another 1.5 million people show up to cheer on that sea of runners.

Runners commonly rave about the crowd support – it is unparalleled – or running through the energetic Chicago neighborhoods of Greektown, Chinatown, Streeterville, The Loop, Pilsen. The highlight for me is seeing architecturally important structures from a street-side vantage point otherwise rarely given.

This week I will give you a Chicago Marathon architectural tour, following the marathon course.

The marathon starts in Grant Park and spends a few miles downtown before shooting north to the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Many of the buildings highlighted will be found within the first couple miles, with today’s post dedicated to structures found within the first mile of the marathon.

 The first structure is not a building, but a girder bridge that snakes and curves over Columbus Drive. Architect Frank Gehry designed this stainless steel and reinforced concrete pedestrian bridge that connects Millennium Park and Grant Park. The BP Pedestrian Bridge (named so because of the $5 million BP donated toward construction) opened in 2004. This is the only Gehry-designed bridge and he did it right. Look for this bridge (really, you can’t miss it) within the first two blocks after the start line.

The second structure of note, Aqua at 225 N. Columbus Drive, is another relative newcomer to the Chicago landscape. Look for a skyscraper with undulating balconies that create a surreal ripple effect. This visually innovative building, opened in 2009, is the biggest U.S. project to date headed by a woman, Jeanne Gang.

While on Columbus Drive, a block before turning onto Grand Street, look for the NBC Tower at 454 N. Columbus Drive. This 37-story limestone tower, completed in 1989, is reminiscent of the 1930’s Art Deco style. Architect Adrian Smith’s romantic 20th-century tower was modeled after Manhattan’s RCA Building at Rockefeller Center.

 Just before the first mile marker, as you pass Michigan Avenue on Grand St, look to your left to see the Tribune Tower (435 N. Michigan Ave.). The tower base of this 34-story skyscraper contains 120 stones from landmarks around the world, including the pyramids in Egypt, the Parthenon in Greece, the Great Wall of China, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in France, the Alamo in San Antonio and the Taj Mahal, in India. This building, completed in 1925, was the result of an international design challenge to design “the most beautiful and eye-catching office building in the world.” Did architects Raymond Hood and John Mead Howells succeed?

Check back on Wednesday for a list of buildings you will find in the second mile of the marathon.

 Oak Park, a village less than 10 miles due west of Chicago’s Loop, has bragging rights to the most Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the world. Wright lived in Oak Park from 1889 to 1909 and developed his Prairie style there.

Chicago, by virtue of its close proximity, also has its share of Wright designs and structures.
The Robie House, located on the University of Chicago’s campus, is considered by some to be one of the most architecturally important buildings in American. Wright designed this building in his Oak Park studio from 1908 to 1910 for businessman Frederick C. Robie.

The Robie House is a Prairie style masterpiece and also a forerunner of architectural modernism. Tours (available Thursday through Monday) allow visitors to experience its contemporary spaces and current restoration work by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust to return the house to its original state. Restorations will follow guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties established by the Secretary of the Interior.

These tours are taken to a whole new level Fridays in October for after hours events that include drinks, hors d’oeuvres and live music in a casual atmosphere. Wright fans and architecture buffs alike will appreciate these events.

The dates are October 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 5 to 8 pm at the Robie House, 5757 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago. Tickets are $30 for Preservation Trust members and $35 for non-members. Visit for additional information.