The State of Chicago Architecture

Chicago magazine announces that "the heydey of Chicago architecture is back," with a compilation of Ten Modern Masterpieces. Their list (below) includes a number of obvious buildings but also a few surprises, though perhaps they are surprises to me due to my one-year absence from the city.

Clockwise from top-left: GARY COMER YOUTH CENTER (2006) by John Ronan Architects, STATE STREET VILLAGE (2003) by Murphy/Jahn Architects, JAY PRITZKER MUSIC PAVILION (2004) by Frank Gehry, THE CONTEMPORAINE (2004) by Perkins + Will, SPERTUS INSTITUTE OF JEWISH STUDIES (late 2007) by Krueck & Sexton Architects, PRITZKER HOUSE (2007) by Wheeler Kearns Architects, REPUBLIC WINDOW & DOOR (1998) Booth Hansen Associates, SOFITEL CHICAGO WATER TOWER (2002) by Jean-Paul Viguier, UBS TOWER (2001) by Lohan Caprile Goettsch (now Goettsch Partners), and SHINGLE HOUSE (2006) by Cohen & Hacker Architects.

Being now an "outsider" to Chicago, it seems to appropriate to comment on the fact only two of the ten projects are by architects outside the city, Frank Gehry's bandshell and Jean-Paul Viguier's Sofitel. In the former, writer Jay Pridmore puts Gehry at odds with Mayor Daley who supposedly "complained of too many eccentricities" in the design, though I recall from an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center that Gehry's initial proposal was a simple, arced canopy that the mayor requested to be "jazzed up" for the park, something at odds with this reporting. Of course, my memory does not have a fact checker, which I'm guessing Chicago magazine has a few of.

Regarding the Sofitel, both Pridmore and quotes from the architect assert the building is not a Chicago building. On my weekly page I argued the opposite, that the facade, massing, and plaza react to the city's architectural history, its grid, and its open spaces, further responding to its direct context in sensitive and creative ways. It may not resemble anything before it, but it's still born from the same ideas and restrictions that create a Chicago building, and therefore it's a building to be learned from, if local architects want to continue making "masterpieces."

(via Gapers Block)


  1. I'm glad to see John Ronan's Youth Center on the list. A former professor of mine, he has long been one of my favorite Chicago architects, if not one of my favorite architects worldwide.

  2. Well, the architect scenario is pretty much the same all over the world...I am glad to notice that only two out of ten are not local. The Gehry sure is jazzed up but am sure many were unaware of the fact that it initially was set to be simple and rather drab.


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