7 Architectural Wonders of Chicago | The Viking Abroad
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7 Architectural Wonders of Chicago

22 Mar 7 Architectural Wonders of Chicago

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Chicago is a vibrant city known for its world-class dining, shopping, sports and culture. Above all, however, Chicago is famous for being the birthplace of the skyscraper. Chicago’s skyline reflects the long history of architectural innovation involved in perfecting this building type. The following are just a few of the many architectural wonders this city has to offer.

Tribune Tower

The oldest structure on this list, Tribune Tower is a well-known Chicago landmark located on busy Michigan Avenue. Completed in 1925, the tower is built in the neo-Gothic style. Elements of the style can be seen in the ornate buttresses that support the crown of the tower as well as sculptural features including gargoyles and over-door ornamentation. Formerly an office building, the tower is currently in the process of conversion to residential use with a focus on making the most of the building’s unique design features.

Marina City

Marina City is one of Chicago’s most recognizable landmarks. Designed by famed architect Bertrand Goldberg, the multi-use complex completed in 1968. Goldberg aimed to design a “city-within-a-city,” and the complex features two 65-story apartment towers, a 10-story office building and an auditorium. The design of the apartment towers, in particular, was very novel. Goldberg used reinforced concrete to create the towers’ corn-cob appearance, making them a distinct feature of the Chicago skyline.

875 North Michigan Avenue

Formerly known as the John Hancock Center, 875 North Michigan Avenue is a 100-story skyscraper located on one of the city’s most-famous streets. This supertall skyscraper is designed in the structural expressionist style, which is illustrated by the tower’s unique X-braced exterior. Be sure to check out the restaurant on the 95th floor and the 360 Chicago observatory for some of the best views of the city.

Salesforce Tower

With completion set for 2023, Salesforce Tower represents the culmination of the development of Wolf Point. The tower will join two others at the site, becoming the city’s leading mixed-use complex. Designed by the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, the tower is set to complement the surrounding structures through its use of steel and glass. Salesforce Chicago will occupy the structure, which is set to make a big impact on the Chicago skyline and revitalize its site along the Chicago River.  

Aqua Tower

Completed in 2009 and designed by star architect Jeanne Gang, Aqua Tower is a skyscraper that bridges the gap between sculpture and architecture. The structure tops out at 82 stories and contains residential units, retail space, office space and a hotel. Gang’s design incorporates sweeping, stretched balconies to maximize the views for building residents. These concrete balcony slabs project from the building at varying lengths, giving the façade its sculptural, rippling appearance. By breaking out of the proverbial box, Aqua is truly a tower that stands out from the cluster of structures nearby.

Willis Tower

A Chicago icon since its completion in 1973, Willis Tower is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The tower is composed of nine square “tubes” clustered together in a square. The tubes terminate at varying heights, providing the structure with an asymmetric, dynamic design. If you’re feeling brave, head to the Skydeck on the 103rd floor, where you can step into an all-glass box with a view down to the street below.

Vista Tower

Also designed by Jeanne Gang, Vista Tower is expected to be complete in mid-2020. Upon completion, it will be the third tallest building in Chicago, topping out at 101 stories. Like Willis Tower, Vista is composed of connected structural sections of varying heights. These sections alternate in the depth of their projection from the façade, rippling in and out and making use of six different shades of glass to intensify the illusion of movement.

These buildings are just a few examples of the groundbreaking architecture found in Chicago. Chicago has long been the center for architectural innovation and experimentation, and the skyline will continue to evolve in dynamic and exciting ways.   

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