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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, May 18

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miss ellen / March 9, 2005 10:26 AM

being a real estate girl, i have lots. i'll just list a few....

333 wacker is beautiful; great location, nice color, good match for the city.

i also LOVE the merchandise mart, for it's massive, towering spot on the river & it's labrynth interior (i've spent lots of time working for our client there). can't wait to see the new batman, it'll get some nice screen time.

Michael / March 9, 2005 10:42 AM

Miss Ellen beat me to it, but I was also going to say 333 W. Wacker. I especially like how the building's facade was designed with green, curved glass panels to match the color and bend of the adjacent Chicago River.

I also like the original art deco-style Board of Trade Building. A classic Chicago view: looking down the LaSalle Street "valley" at this building with its faceless statue of Ceres standing atop

Finally, and maybe someone can help me out with the name of this one...I really like the building next to the Sears Tower with the illuminated "crown" at the top. I heard it was inspired by the classic Tiffany's four-pronged engagement ring. Whatever...I just think it looks really cool at night.

anne / March 9, 2005 11:04 AM

I've always been a fan of the Marina Towers. They're so unique looking, and were a great landmark for me when I was learning my way around town a few years ago. I didn't know their name for a long time, so I made up nicknames like "corncobbie towers" and "white record things" for few months.

I'm also a fan of the Harold Washington Library and its elaborate copper-green sconces.

Ian / March 9, 2005 11:08 AM

Michael I think the building you refer to is 311 S. Wacker Drive?

For my personal choice, it really changes on a week to week basis, by I always enjoy both the rock solid exterior and beautiful 1920's interior of the Monadnock building.

Thurston / March 9, 2005 11:08 AM

I think the RR Doneley building at 77 W. Wacker is beautiful. It was designed by a Spanish architect named something Bofil, and I love the way the refelctive glass complements the river and the Greco-Roman adornments, and the fact that is has a visible roof. It's also lit nicely at nite.

Emerson Dameron / March 9, 2005 11:18 AM

The Raymond Hilliard Homes. Goldberg's self-pastiche is the sort of thrilling, epic ugliness one finds only in cities.

miss ellen / March 9, 2005 11:22 AM

Ian's correct, it's 311 S. Wacker.

Wacker just gets all the gems! Thurston noted a great one, and I also like 35 W. Wacker, or the Leo Burnett, it's got Catch 35 & the lunch-time spot Catch & Carry.

Nomar / March 9, 2005 11:36 AM

Wrigley Field because people play baseball in it and they serve beer.

steven / March 9, 2005 11:45 AM

We always called the building at 311 S. Wacker the White Castle building. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

My favorite has to be the Hancock. I remember all those old beer ads (Budweiser?) with the drawings of the lakefront, and the Hancock always had some crazy bend to it, and it was larger than life.

You also get the best views of the city from the Signature Room up on the 95th floor...feels like you could fall right into the lake if you're not careful. The fact that I can see it from where I'm at on Broadway doesn't hurt one bit either.

Other favs are the Merch Mart, for its massiveness; the Cultural Center, for its detailed interior; the Carbon and Carbide Building, for the art-deco styling; and the building along south LSD, maybe near Navy Pier? I think it might be a post office or police station. It reminds me of Dragnet and it rocks. Very stocky, powerful structure.

Laura / March 9, 2005 11:59 AM

Maybe I'm partial, because this is where I work...
515 North State Street
I just think it's so striking

Laura / March 9, 2005 12:01 PM

Well, I'm new at this, and I tried to provide the link - here it is:

Ted / March 9, 2005 12:07 PM

The Marquette Building, because of the murals and beautiful bronze bas-reliefs of Indians and French explorers in the lobby.

jeff / March 9, 2005 12:10 PM

The Aon Center, by far.

Emily / March 9, 2005 12:19 PM

My favorite is the carbide & carbon building, by a pretty wide margin

isn't it nice?

ljdae / March 9, 2005 12:29 PM

John Hancock

Eamon / March 9, 2005 12:40 PM

It's impossible to pick just one, but a few spring to mind:

  • For the pure magnitude of it all, I have to go with the John Hancock Center. Pretty to look at, and the Signature Room puts the Sears Tower to shame.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House is easily one of the most beautiful houses in the city, and the tours are fantastic.
  • Working on the 31st floor of a building directly across the street from the Tribune Tower was a real treat.
  • And some day, some day, I believe the Uptown Theatre will finally be restored.

Stephen / March 9, 2005 12:51 PM

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned The Rookery yet!

I'm also a big fan of the NBC tower, for its modern Deco design and flying buttresses paying respect to the Tribune Tower nearby.

Michael / March 9, 2005 1:02 PM

The Rookery certainly deserves merit, and I certainly hope they restore the Uptown Theatre as well. And I might as well add the Water Tower and the Art Institute w/ its signature lions to the list.

Stephen - although I've heard the term before, I am an unsure of its meaning...what exactly are 'flying buttresses?'

Mike / March 9, 2005 1:21 PM

I'm tied between St. Nicholas Cathedral in UK Village because it just jumps out at you in a really bland and utilitarian neighborhood, or...Old St. Patrick's, because you just can't be 20-foot tall Celtic Stained glass.

Mike / March 9, 2005 1:22 PM

Sorry, you can't "beat" stained glass. I guess you can't "be" it either.

qwerty / March 9, 2005 1:28 PM

Just be glad they never built the proposed 210-story Chicago World Trade Center or even worse, the Miglin-Beitler Sky Needle. How's that for a horrible looking building?

Andrew / March 9, 2005 1:43 PM

I'm with Emily -- the Carbide & Carbon Building has always been one of my favorites.

I'm also a fan of the Tree Studios. Glad they're not being knocked down

Joe / March 9, 2005 1:55 PM

Lake Point Tower, the only privately owned property east of Lake Shore Drive.

Joe / March 9, 2005 1:55 PM

Lake Point Tower, the only privately owned property east of Lake Shore Drive.

eep / March 9, 2005 1:55 PM

Like Thurston, I also love the RR Doneley Building. I don't know why, but I absolutely adore it. I think it's the roof.

I'm also partial to that old abandoned building right around Racine and 290, the one with the murals painted on the side. I was always fascinated with it as a child, and I still enjoy looking at the murals when I'm stuck in traffic.

emily / March 9, 2005 2:17 PM

The Harold Washington Library. I can't help staring in awe at the ornamentation along the roofline. Gorgeous.

Carter / March 9, 2005 2:35 PM

absolutely the Encyclopaedia Brittanica building, which is on 310 S. Michigan- it's the one with the hive design on top that they light blue most of the year.

I call it our "ghostbuster building".

Matt / March 9, 2005 3:24 PM

I like the "Diamond Building" on Michigan Ave...the smurfit/stone container building I believe is what it is

Tim / March 9, 2005 3:32 PM

860-880 LSD: Mies.
Crown Hall: Mies.
Monadnock Building: love the thick walls.
150 N. Michigan: Adventures in Baby-Sitting.
Marina City: If Bond lived in Chicago...
Hancock: It is so Chicago.
Palmolive Building: bring back the light.
Finally, the Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior (aka "the GodBox") it is Mies Van der Rohe's only religious builing and it is here in Chicago. A perfect, beautiful mid-century gem. Nearly a secret.

Heather S. / March 9, 2005 3:42 PM

It has always been the old Water Tower. When I was in 4th grade our class made replica of downtown Chicago. I made the Water Tower out of toilet paper and paper towl rolls. It was beautiful.

Thurston / March 9, 2005 3:43 PM

The Marina Towers are really cool. Thus, I was excited last summer when apartment hunting and learning that you can rent there... until I saw the apartments. Notwithstanding the ginormous decks and incredible view, the pizza-slice shaped units make for really bad floor plans and unworkable spaces. When I walk by, though, part of me still wishes I had rented there if only to be able to say I lived in these world-renowned buildings.

Craig / March 9, 2005 3:47 PM

At Grand and Wells in River North there is a modern building that I always can't help but stare at every time I pass. It's facade is composed with green tinted glass and raw concrete and I find it to be strikingly beautiful. I can't seem to find any info on the web, but it's right next door to Binny's and has a vintage Scandanvaian furniture store in its 1st floor retial. Here's a crappy photo from a few years ago.

Craig / March 9, 2005 3:53 PM

Didn't know about Emporis before I posted...

Here it is.

Benjy / March 9, 2005 4:04 PM

That's a tough question, with so many to choose from!

I guess I'll make a list:
Marina City
Carbide & Carbon Building
Wrigley Bullding

One that I really like that hasn't been mentioned in the old traffic court building at LaSalle & the river (where Bob Chinn's is). It's got nice prairie school brick work and I love the clock tower.

Eamon / March 9, 2005 4:23 PM

Here's an illustration of a flying buttress. It's basically a heavy structure that provides support to a wall via an arch.

Steve / March 9, 2005 5:26 PM

Where's the love for my work place, the USG Building?

It's because we're short, isn't it?

Steve / March 9, 2005 5:28 PM

The USG Building.

ian / March 9, 2005 5:30 PM

I was told that the Smurfit-Stone building is not so much meant to be thought of as a diamond as it is supposed to be a skyscraper that isn't a phallus.

In any case, my favorite building is the Edgewater Beach Hotel merely because I think using pink stucco is bold.

Jen / March 9, 2005 6:27 PM

The Reliance Building at State and Washingston (?)
Hancock building
Cultural Center

craftymonkey / March 9, 2005 7:40 PM

The Chicago Title & Trust Building and the Sofitel building. Both stark white and striking.

Michael / March 9, 2005 8:39 PM

Craig - The Contemporaine is a building I often admire from the "L" as well...I was afraid they were going to "dress up" the raw concrete, but apparently it has just recently been completed.

Benjy - interesting bit of trivia about the old traffic court building (Reid-Murdoch Building) was used as a temporary hospital and morgue back in 1915 during the S.S. Eastland disaster. My great-grandfather was a survivor, but died six months later from related health complications.

Craftmonkey - great call on the Chicago Title & Trust Building...forgot about that one

Laura / March 9, 2005 10:44 PM

*The Inland Steel Building, with its pale green glass. I've never seen anything like it.
*The Monadnock is pretty cool. Props for the old-fashioned businesses inside, like Frank's Barbershop.
*The coolest sign/storefront facade has to be Erickson Jewelers in Andersonville

Matt / March 9, 2005 10:45 PM

I like the Monadnock Building, which is - I think - the last skyscraper (as that term was understood circa 1890) built without the use of structural steel, giving it that sort of fortressy lock in the lower floors. Likewise, the Auditorium Theater Building has some great stuff going for it.

John / March 9, 2005 11:59 PM

The Tribune Tower, because it's like a Gothic cathedral and I used to get stoned with my buddies all the way up at the top many years ago.

Mister C / March 10, 2005 1:45 AM

Such a difficult choice. I love so many of the buildings mentioned: Carbon & Carbide, Monadnock, Rookery, The Harold, Marquette...hell, I love just about 'em all.
But just to be obscure I'll pick the Fisher Building (on Dearborn just North of the El at the Library stop). It was designed by the same guy who did the Reliance Building (another favorite) around the same time and it looks like an ornate gold Gothic version of it. Here are some photos.
This is my first time posting, so I hope I got that link right. Also, please forgive me for linking to my own site but I don't know of any other pictures of it online. I don't remember seeing it on Emporis or any of the usual suspects.

CVal / March 10, 2005 8:38 AM

I have to agree with the previous comments regarding the Monadnock Building. The interior details and accents are classic Chicago style

waleeta / March 10, 2005 9:30 AM

I am not sure of the name, but it's a building right across the street from the wrigley building (and about half a block north). They have Assyrian art carvings on the face. Very beautiful.

marbles / March 10, 2005 9:40 AM

Oh man, posting late certainly leaves one at a disadvantage.
I, like a number of you, love the carbide and carbon building. (Curse you Hard Rock co. for taking it over... but thank you for not leaving too crass of a mark.) I always have to stop whenever I'm in the neighborhood to appreciate the flowing gold ornamentation (best viewed from Randolph and State on a very sunny afternoon), or get close and lose myself in the art deco detail.
Other faves:
Chicago Title and Trust -- just striking
Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral -- it's like bundled enthusiasm
Essanay Studios -- glad this place is still around
Wrigley Field -- because I have some serious baseball on my mind
The Fisher Building -- earthy elegance
Marina Towers -- agree with Thurston, fun exterior with one of the worst floor plans I've come across

I only wish I were more familiar with some of the architectural wonders on the south side.

e_five / March 10, 2005 9:46 AM

I like most of the buildings that form the Michigan Ave. wall facing Grant and Millennium Park.

One notable building that's part of it was Burnham's Railroad Exchange Building built in 1904. It's the building with the Santa Fe sign on the top.

erica / March 10, 2005 10:01 AM

This is funny -- this was the question I was asked by the Architecture Association when I interviewed for a job there last fall. It got me an interview, but no further. They were kinda stuck up anyway. Anyway, I see a lot of others like this bldg., too.

My favorite building in Chicago is the historic
Carbide and Carbon building located at 230 North
Michigan Avenue. The base is covered in black polished
granite, and the tower is a dark green terra cotta
accented with gold terra cotta ornamentation. I
really love the contrast created by the dark facade
and gold highlights.
Built at the end of the roaring '20s, I read that the
building was designed to resemble a dark green
champagne bottle. I enjoy it because it stands out
among Michigan Avenues shops and boutiques and it
looks gorgeous from the river.

I think the building possesses many elements of the
headiness of the 1920s, and the gold is really bold
and flashy, however structurally, it's a very clean,
crisp and distinguished piece of Chicago architecture.
I think had it been approved any later it would have
not been completed due to the Great Depression, so
Chicago's fortunate to have it as part of its skyline.

Originally built as an office tower, the building was
recently restored and reopened as the Hard Rock Hotel.
he floor of the Michigan Avenue lobby is Tennessee
marble with a border of black Belgium marble. I was so
happy to see it was given a second chance; it was
gutted and vacant for some time and I was worried it
would be demolished.

Brandy / March 10, 2005 10:27 AM

The Chicago Cultural Center. No great shakes on the outside, but ooh-la-la on the inside. It's a building with such grandeur, but with the colors (thinking of the south end) amazingly light and breezy. I adore that it's been kept a public building offering so much. I'm a library-oholic, wishing I could time travel back and experience it as a library.

Gloria F. Green / March 10, 2005 10:28 AM

My favorite building is the Chicago Cultural Center, which for
so many years was the Central Branch of the Chicago Public
Library. As a child, this was where
I discovered the unlimited world of books and reading. As an adult, I witnessed the transformation that
has made this place a true cultural gem. The mosaics, the sweeping staircases, and the many
nooks and reading areas make this
a wonderful oasis of calm in the

paul / March 10, 2005 10:32 AM

Marina City (including the curvy House of Blues Theater).

The Mercandise mart for its shear massiveness.

The RR Donnelley Building for it's tall classyness. Although the real treats are inside - upstairs elevator waiting areas display a few of those original Chinese terra cotta soldiers, and the Gaylord Donnelly Library is the ultimate in dark-wood executive excess, including it's ultra cool pop-out panel displays of Gutenberg bible pages.

Duncan / March 10, 2005 10:34 AM

Bank One Plaza. A soaring modernist masterpiece. The vertical lines of the stone columns look like they go into the ground and keep curving out.

Kelly / March 10, 2005 10:56 AM

The Reliance Building (to me) is the epitome of Chicago Architecture.

Maureen / March 10, 2005 1:03 PM

One of my favorite buildings that hasn't been mentioned yet is a residential building designed by Marshall and Fox at State St. Parkway (at least I think that's the street there) and North Ave., overlooking Lincoln Park. I totally dream of living there someday.

I too am partial to 311 W. Wacker. And I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned the Inland Steel building, which is beautiful and would have been improbably expensive with the brushed steel facade unless the company itself was a steel company. Props also to the Rookery and Marquette Building. I also really love the 1920s-era buildings along Lake Shore Drive in Lakeview. The buildings around the old Pullman planned city in Beverly are also really cool and have a fascinating history. I also like the Board of Trade building, and how it's one of only a few buildings from that time because of the stock market crash. It's interesting that the sculpture on top of the building was simplistically designed because at the time nobody dreamed that anybody would erect a building tall enough that somebody would actually able to see any facial feature details in the Ceres (sp?) agricultural figure.

My least favorite building in Chicago may be that ugly red building in the loop that was plopped on top of an older building, in an example of how NOT to integrate new and old architecture. It's a total blight in the skyline.

Michael / March 10, 2005 1:27 PM

Maureen -
As I understand it...the theory to which you attribute the faceless statue of Ceres has for the most part been debunked. The more widely-accepted theory now is that the statue was designed faceless simply because that's characteristic of art deco-style architecture/art. (apparently, no one thought to ask the artist while he was still alive!)

Peter / March 10, 2005 2:39 PM

The Washington Library

Mister C / March 10, 2005 3:06 PM

An interesting note about the Inland Steel Building was that Inland Steel actually wasn't making stainless steel at the time (1956ish) and were buying it from a competitor on the sly. Of course, you can't buy that much stainless steel without it being noticed, and the competitor found them out and apparently took out a big old ad to that effect. Something like "You know our steel is good because Inland is buying it for their own building." Inland was muy embarrassed, but the fact that it was such an awesome ground-breaking building probably quelled their pain a bit. Almost 50 years old and it still seems cutting-edge.

paulette / March 10, 2005 4:13 PM

I love this residential building in river north called Erie on the Park. A beautiful example of structural expressionism to contrast with all the concrete condo towers in the area.

phule / May 25, 2006 9:39 PM

I'm going to get killed for this one...

Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Because it feels like someting straight out of Blade Runner.

diana / August 31, 2006 3:52 PM

i really like the 311 South Wacker Drive building. Does anyone know the story behind the "engagement ring"? a more in depth explanation. i know it is a representation of the ring the architect gave to his wife, but why show it through a building?

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