10 Iconic Chicago Architectural Sites Worth Checking Out

Chicago has long been known as one of the premier architectural capitals of the country. Home to what was known as the first skyscraper, the cityscape holds great significance in the progression and world of architecture. 

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Chicago lost over 18,000 structures to the flames. As a result, benefactors and architects came from all over the world to make Chicago better than ever. This innovative restructuring built the foundation of the Chicago we all know and love today. Here are 10 Iconic Chicago Architechtiual Sites Worth Checking Out:


Located at 400-410 North Michigan Avenue, the Wrigley building was completed in 1924 to house the corporate headquarters for the Wrigley Company. The two towers that make up the building are clad in six shades of white-glazed terracotta. The building is still periodically hand washed to preserve its gleaming white exterior. The Wrigley Building also received its official Chicago Landmark status in 2012.


Located in downtown Chicago, Merchandise Mart, or THE MART, is a two-block building so large that it once had its own zip code. The art-deco monstrosity was completed in 1930 to house all architectural and interior design vendors and trades under one roof. The architectural style of THE MART is said to be pulled from three building types, the warehouse, the department store, and the skyscraper. Designed to be a “city within a city,” there are over 4,000,000 square feet to check out when visiting THE MART.


Originally and still lovingly known as the “Sears Tower,” this 108-story building might be the most iconic in the Chicago skyline. Opening in 1973, the Willis Tower held the title of “The World’s Largest Building” for 25 years! This building is also home to one of Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations, the Skydeck, bringing in more than 1.7 million people each year.


A newer piece of iconic Chicago architecture is the Aqua Tower. Completed in 2009, the Aqua Tower quickly gained recognition and awards for its design excellence. The building’s rippling, white concrete balconies give it a sculptural aesthetic that other functional skyscrapers lack, making it an instant Chiago icon.


One of the most recognizable pieces of Chicago architecture is Marina City, or “Marina Towers.” The two identical towers contain almost no right angles, and each consists of 64 floors with mixed uses, including businesses, residential, and parking. When the towers were completed in 1968, they were considered the tallest residential building in the world.


Located at 25 E Erie Street, the Cable House was built in 1886 for socialite Ransom R. Cable. The Richardsonian Romanesque-style home is reminiscent of a castle, making it stick out among sleek and modern skyscrapers. Receiving its Chicago Landmark title in 1991, the Cable House is one of the few remaining structures that illustrate its area’s original elite residential character.


This 463-foot-tall Neo-Gothic skyscraper is another of Chicago’s most iconic and recognizable pieces of architecture. Located at 435 North Michigan Avenue, Tribune Tower is at the heart of the city and is well-known and loved by Chicagoans. One of the most unique parts of Tribune Tower is its incorporation of rocks and bricks from historically significant sites all over the world. At the lowest levels of the building, you can find stones from places such as the Parthenon, the Alamo, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal, just to name a few.


Reminiscent of the architecture found in Greece or Rome, the Museum of Science and Industry’s Neo-Classical style was designed and built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It was initially known as the “Palace of Fine Arts” and was meant to display paintings, prints, and sculptures from around the world. Today it houses various exhibits that bring in millions of visitors each year.


One of Chicago’s most unique pieces of architecture is the Carbide & Carbon Building. Completed in 1929, this building epitomizes the lavish excitement of the Art Deco style. The building’s exterior consists of polished black granite and dark green terracotta with gold leaf accents. It is rumored that the building was designed to resemble a dark green champagne bottle with gold foil at the top. Today the Carbide & Carbon Building houses The Pendry Hotel, where guests can come and stay and take in the extravagant Art Deco details themselves.


A U.S. National Historic Landmark, the Robie House is located on the campus of the University of Chicago. Designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, it is considered the finest example of its design style, “Prarie School.” This design style is the first architectural style to be considered uniquely American. This style is heavily influenced by the landscape and plant life that aure unique to the midwest prairies.



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