The Evolution of Chicago’s Skyline

While historians continue to debate the impact of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 on the city’s future development, architects continue to reach for the sky along Chicago’s iconic shoreline. Out of the ashes rose a shimmering town of glass and steel and stone whose identity is forever associated with its reputation as a innovation laboratory for American design and engineering.

As home to the Home Insurance Building–the world’s first steel-framed skyscraper, completed in 1885–Chicago is generally regarded as the birthplace of the skyscaper. And while the city’s status has been diminshed since the Petronas Towers overtook the Sears Tower in 1998 as the world’s tallest building, Chicago still retains its title as one of the great architectural cities of the world.

Leah and I started our journey by foot to gaze at the Water Tower landmark,

Water Tower

and its companion Pumping Station–two castellated structures of ornate limestone that miraculously survived the deadly fire, and presently anchor Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

Water Tower2

We continued to Millennium Park to reflect on Sir Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (or The Bean as its known to locals),

Millenium Park

and admire Frank Gehry’s twisted bandshell at Pritzker’s Pavilion.

bandstand

From there we spiraled down Gehry’s aluminum-clad BP Bridge…

BP vertical 8

to reach Lake Michigan, where we traipsed over Lawrence Weiner’s Out of Sight installation…

Assuming the Position

on our way to the spray of Grant Park’s Buckingham Fountain.

Buckingham Fountain

Yet, with so much to see along the Chicago Riverwalk, we opted for a guided boat tour through the Chicago River…

Shoreline Sightseeing

to gain a better understanding of Chicago’s architectural history and diversity–

Chicago River

where art deco…

Wrigley Building
Wrigley Building
Merchandise Mart
Merchandise Mart
Tribune Tower
Tribune Tower

intersects with post-modernism…

Sears or Willis Tower
Sears Tower flanked by 311 South Wacker Drive
NBC Tower
NBC Tower

to deliver modernism…

You Are Here
300 South Wacker with a map of Chicago River
Trump Tower
Trump Tower

with a flourish.

Vista Tower
Vista Tower, Chicago’s newest tower

And while each of the buildings in Chicago’s loop is worthy of a traditional photographic portrait,

lift bridge

sometimes it’s necessary to examine the details more closely…

Vasarely balconies

to see things from a different perspective…

face

as it may reflect a new reality.

Chicago Riverwalk

Or sometimes, just looking at things upside-down…

balcony arcs

or sideways…

balcony-waves-1.jpg

forces us to appreciate the beauty of an architect’s play of form and function.

window washer

Public Service Art

The Chicago Art Institute is considered one of the highly regarded art museums in the world. Its collection is deep; it is wide; and it’s displayed in 200+ galleries over three floors.

Art Institute

However, with only two days scheduled in Chicago and so much to do, Leah and I had less time to roam the museum than I would have preferred. What to do?

Fortunately, the Art Institute has a solution! The museum provides a guide for locating twelve essential must-sees, and comprehensive floor plans to help find them. It’s their version of a cultural scavenger hunt through time and space.

Museum Highlights

Leah and I accepted the challenge, walking 3 miles in 2 hours (which also included a visit to the Member’s Lounge to sip some coffee) until we saw all twelve works of art.

Realizing that time is precious, and many people may not have the capacity to travel, I’ve taken the liberty of recording the museum’s highlights and displaying them for all to see without spending the time or walking the distance–although it’s impossible to replace the sensation of seeing these masterpieces up close and personal.

Nevertheless, consider it a public service and a crash course in art appreciation…

Face Mask (Ngady Amwaash)
Face Mask (Ngady Amwaash)
Armor for Man and Horse
Armor for Man and Horse
El Greco's The Assumption of the Virgin
El Greco’s The Assumption of the Virgin
Georges Serat's A Sunday on La Grande Jette--1884
Georges Serat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jette–1884
Claude Monet's Stacks of Wheat
Claude Monet’s Stacks of Wheat
Georgia O'Keefe's Sky above Clouds IV
Georgia O’Keefe’s Sky above Clouds IV
Edward Hopper's Nighthawks
Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks
Archibald John Motley Jr.'s Nightlife
Archibald John Motley Jr.’s Nightlife
Grant Wood's American Gothic
Grant Wood’s American Gothic
Pablo Picassa's The Old Gitarist
Pablo Picassa’s The Old Guitarist
Alma Thomas's Starry Night and the Astronauts
Alma Thomas’s Starry Night and the Astronauts
Andy Warhol's Liz #3
Andy Warhol’s Liz #3

You’re welcome.