Chicago became a hub for architectural experimentation and invention, with numerous skyscrapers that were once the world's tallest. When it came to skyscrapers, limited real estate, and high winds, Chicago, the Windy City, had many of the same constraints as New York. But it did so with a more creative approach that resulted in some of the most influential buildings in the world.
The first skyscraper in Chicago was built without any windows in an attempt to be energy efficient. It also helped that Chicago has relatively mild winters. The building was completed in 1872 and still stands today.
In 1892, Charles W. Eliot brought the practice of academic writing into journalism when he established the Harvard Classics series. The series consisted of translations from classical authors edited by college graduates who were experts in their fields. These books have been important sources of information for historians and scholars ever since they were published!
In 1896, Daniel H. Burnham and Edward D. Stone created the Plan of Chicago which proposed new neighborhoods for the city. These new neighborhoods were designed by other architects and took advantage of recent advances in technology to create spaces where people could live large lives. One such neighborhood is Oak Park, which was founded by former slaves after they were granted land by the government. It is now a wealthy suburb of Chicago!
Two of the ten highest buildings in the United States are in Chicago. Chicago is home to five of the fifteen tallest buildings in the United States. Chicago has the second highest skyline in the United States, after only New York City. Chicago has 116 buildings that were at least 500 feet (152 m) tall as of June 2019. Of these, seven are still under construction and may rise further.
New York City has 514 buildings that are at least 400 feet (122 m) tall. Chicago has more skyscrapers on a per capita basis than any other city in the United States.
In 2016, Chicago's Willis Tower became the world's second-highest building, behind Shanghai's CN Tower. The Tribune Center is currently the third-highest building in the U.S., while CITI Plaza is the fourth-highest building outside of China.
New York City has 972 buildings that are at least 200 feet (61 m) tall.
Of these, two are still under construction and may rise further: One World Trade Center and the Other World Trade Center. Both buildings are now nearly finished at 1,776 feet (541 m) and 240 feet (73 m) respectively.
Chicago's default height limit is 45 stories, but this can be increased by local ordinance. No Chicago skyscraper has ever been built with fewer than six floors or more than nine.
The Chicago Skyline is an architectural marvel, with buildings of diverse forms and sizes framing it. Chicago, being the cradle of skyscrapers, has witnessed the development of numerous architectural innovations. The rise of Chicago skyscrapers began with Goldberg's Marina City and the One Parke Place Crain Communications Building. Since then, over 100 skyscrapers have been built here.
There are three major types of skyscraper designs: office buildings, hotel towers, and residential high-rises. Office buildings usually have the ground floor used for retail sales or restaurant space while the rest of the building is taken up by office spaces. Hotel towers are similar to office buildings, but they tend to be taller and include more rooms. Residential high-rises provide housing for upper-level employees of businesses located in the surrounding area. These buildings are usually found near city centers and serve as active participants in urban life.
Goldberg's Marina City is an example of an office building that also contains some rental apartments on its top floors. It is a six-story structure with a concrete frame and glass walls. The Chicago Loop is filled with similar buildings. They vary in size from 14 to 105 feet tall and were designed by famous architects such as Eero Saarinen, Louis Sullivan, and Harry Weese.
Residential skyscrapers are abundant in the Chicago area.
A fragmented dream gave birth to the Chicago Spire. It was once the foundation of what would become the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere. A 2,000-foot-tall tower was to rise from 400 North Lake Shore Drive, piercing the clouds and boasting more than 150 floors of one-of-a-kind potential. The project was to be completed in only 18 months for its opening day on January 1, 1980.
But despite winning major contracts with both the federal government and the city of Chicago, Bernard Schwartz's ACME Corporation went bankrupt in 1979. That same year, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance requiring buildings over 140 feet tall to have some sort of spire as part of their design review process. When a developer doesn't follow through on their building plans, the city can tack on extra costs to the mortgage payments or increase the price of property tax assessments, effectively killing the deal before it starts. In 1981, after completing just two floors of the Spire, ACME surrendered the rest of the site to the city.
So where could this potentially lucrative business opportunity go now? The Spire wasn't the only big idea that Schwartz had been working on. This would have been a full-size replica of his successful Mini-Spinoff, only it would have been able to lift vehicles up to 30 feet into the air.
The Windy City's amazing development was fueled by the construction of canals, the installation of sewers, and the jacking up of buildings. Chicago was a wilderness outpost of just 350 people in 1833, clustered around a tiny military fort on swampy soil where the Chicago River flowed into Lake Michigan. Within 75 years, its population had grown to 200,000, making it the most populous lake city in the world.
In the mid-19th century, the primary means of communication with the outside world was by water. So when the Illinois Central Railroad built a line running through Chicago, it made sense for it to also build a station here. The first one opened in 1853 and was called "The Old Station." It was replaced about 10 years later by another station that is still in use today. This new structure was designed by William Le Baron Jenney, who would go on to design many more stations across the country.
The growth of Chicago was nothing short of phenomenal. By 1890, the city was home to 2 million people, which makes it almost as large as Philadelphia or New York City. And unlike those cities, most of Chicago's population lived in apartments instead of single-family homes. There were no suburbs back then, so everyone lived within walking distance of the factory gates or train station.
The need for transportation networks that could handle this growth led to another famous American architect: Henry Hobson Richardson.
The Willis Tower (originally the Sears Tower), which rises 1,451 feet (442 m) in the Chicago Loop and was completed in 1974, is the city's highest structure. The third highest point of elevation in the city is Grant's Tomb, at 954 feet (290 m).
Willis Tower is a joint venture between Chicago-based architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Dongfeng Motor Corporation of China. It was built as a luxury hotel but now houses offices, restaurants, a museum, and other amenities. When it opened its doors in 1975, it was the world's first fully enclosed skyscraper building.
The building has 21 floors above ground and an additional 3 floors below ground. Of these, only the top 20 floor are fully occupied while the lower floor is used for parking.
It is named after its original owner, John W. Willis. Willis was a department store chain that also owned Sears Roebuck and Company at the time of its construction. The company went bankrupt in 1990 after being hit hard by competition from big box stores and declining sales due to their involvement in Sears Roebuck.
However, it is still called "The Sears Tower" because of its former owner.