Chicago Skyscrapers

Chicago has a long history at the forefront of skyscraper development. It influenced architecture across the world ever since the Chicago School of architecture started to guide the evolution from standard construction techniques with brick and concrete to the steel frame structures that allowed the development of ever taller buildings. Architects such as Louis Sullivan and Mies van der Rohe are some of the famous architects based in Chicago that guided the way to the functional skyscrapers that still dominate the skylines of cities in the US and abroad. Many of the most innovative buildings were erected in the city of Chicago, and for several decades the city even boasted the world's tallest building.

Below a selection of some of the most interesting skyscrapers in Chicago. For a more exhaustive list, see the Chicago Buildings page.
75 E Wacker Drive
75 E Wacker DriveFact Sheet
Originally known as the Mather Tower, this slender skyscraper at East Wacker Drive was built between 1926 and 1928 as the headquarters for the Mather Stock Car Company. The most intriguing part of the building is its 18 story tall spire, which has an unusual octagonal shape. The tower, now known by its address, was Chicago's second tallest when it was completed in 1928.
333 Wacker Drive
333 Wacker DriveFact Sheet
The construction in 1983 of the sleek glass skyscraper at 333 Wacker Drive, with its curved facade, heralded a new era in Chicago's skyscraper history. As one of several new buildings erected in the early 1980s, its design symbolized a departure from the International Style that had dominated the previous decade.   Read More...
860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments
860-880 Lake Shore Drive ApartmentsFact Sheet
They may not seem out of the ordinary today, but when the apartment buildings at 860 and 880 Lake Shore Drive were constructed in the early 1950s, they were truly revolutionary with their glass facades and lack of ornamentation. These two towers, designed by Mies van der Rohe, cemented Chicago's reputation as a city on the forefront of modern architecture.   Read More...
Aon Center
Aon CenterFact Sheet
When it was completed in 1973, the sparkling white Aon Center - then known as the Standard Oil Building - was not only Chicago's tallest building, it was also the world's tallest skyscraper clad in marble. That is, until it became clear that the marble panels were too thin to withstand extreme temperatures; it was reclad from 1990 to 1992 with speckled granite slabs.
AquaFact Sheet
Aqua, an 82 story tall tower constructed from 2007 to 2009, is one of Chicago's newest skyscrapers. It is characterised by its undulating balconies - each with a unique shape - that create a pattern of waves, hence the building's name.   Read More...
Carbide and Carbon Building
Carbide and Carbon BuildingFact Sheet
The Carbide and Carbon building was built during the skyscraper boom of the late 1920s for the Union Carbide Corporation. The dark Gothic terra cotta tower is crowned with a spire accentuated with gold leaf trimming. In 2004 the former office building was converted into a hotel.
Chase Tower
Chase TowerFact Sheet
The tapering shape of this 1969 tower makes it stand out in the skyscraper cluster of Chicago's downtown loop. It stood in stark constrast with the traditional box-like office towers erected during the 1960s and 1970s. Despite its almost brutalist exterior, the tower exudes a sleek elegance.
Chicago Board of Trade Building
Chicago Board of Trade BuildingFact Sheet
The Chicago Board of Trade Building is an imposing Art Deco skyscraper completed in 1930 at a prominent site overlooking LaSalle Street. Until 1965 this was the tallest building in Chicago. It is topped by an aluminium statue of Ceres, goddess of agriculture, which long towered over the city's skyline.
Chicago Temple
Chicago TempleFact Sheet
Now dwarfed by its neighbors, this building was the tallest in Chicago from its completion in 1923 until 1930, when the Chicago Board of Trade Building was completed. The top of the Chicago Temple resembles a medieval Gothic cathedral spire. So it's probably appropriate that the building's base is home to a church.   Read More...
Kluczynski Building
Kluczynski BuildingFact Sheet
The black glass and steel Kluczynski building is a typical example of Miesian architecture. The monolithic 42 story tall slab was built in the early 1960s as part of Federal Center, an administrative office complex.
Fisher Building
Fisher BuildingFact Sheet
This Chicago landmark was built in 1896 as one of many highrises in Chicago that were designed according to the principles of the 'Chicago School', a style that became a model for the design of office buildings worldwide.   Read More...
Hotel Inter-Continental
Hotel Inter-ContinentalFact Sheet
The oriental style dome reflects the building's heritage, as this skyscraper was commissioned in the 1920s by an organization with roots in the Middle East. The interior of the building is similarly styled, with intricately detailed Byzantine decorations and neo-Egyptian reliefs.
330 North Wabash
330 North WabashFact Sheet
This monolithic steel slab with a bronze-tinted glass facade was the last building designed by Mies van der Rohe in the US and can be considered as Chicago's ultimate 'glass box'. It occupies a prominent riverfront site which boasted wide views over the Chicago River, now partially obscured by its taller neighbor - the Trump Tower.
Inland Steel Building
Inland Steel BuildingFact Sheet
Despite its relatively small size, the Inland Steel Building is an icon of Chicago architecture thanks to its innovative use of steel cladding and a design that allowed for large floors by placing core services in a separate tower and moving the supporting columns to the outside. This was also the city's first fully airconditioned building.
John Hancock Center
John Hancock CenterFact Sheet
One of Chicago's most famous buildings and still one of the city's tallest skyscrapers, the John Hancock Center was built in 1969 after an innovative design with large externally visible x-shaped braces which support the structure. It was the tallest building in Chicago until the completion of the Aon Center in 1973.   Read More...
Lake Point Tower
Lake Point TowerFact Sheet
This tower with its unique curving facade was built at the end of the 1960s at a site close to the lake, in an area that was not intended for the construction of highrises. As a result, the building stands on its own and owners of the tower's apartments have unobstructed views of its surroundings.   Read More...
Marina City
Marina CityFact Sheet
This complex of circular towers was built in 1964 as a 'city in the city'. It was both innovative in its design - with leaf-shaped floorplans and open parking garages on the lower floor - and in its intention to bring the people back from the suburbs to downtown, thereby reducing commuting time. The complex was very successful from the start and many other buildings soon followed in its footsteps.   Read More...
Merchandise Mart
Merchandise MartFact Sheet
This imposing structure was built in 1931 by Chicago's storied Marshall Field and Company to house administrative offices and showrooms. For a decade it held the title of the world's largest building by floor size. Even by today's standards it is immense with a surface area of over 380 000 sq m (4 000 000 ft)   Read More...
Reliance Building
Reliance BuildingFact Sheet
This landmark building was designed by the architectural firm of Daniel Burnham, one of the most influential architects of the Chicago School. The building was very innovative for its time, with unusually large windows made possible by its skeletal frame structure.
Tribune Tower
Tribune TowerFact Sheet
The Tribune Tower was built in 1925 after a design by Raymond Hood and John Howell, whose neo-Gothic design won a competition organised by the Chicago Daily Tribune for their new headquarters. It was however a design that ended up as runner up in the competition that would influence modern architecture.   Read More...
Trump Tower
Trump TowerFact Sheet
One of the newest entries in the select club of Chicago's super tall buildings is the Trump Tower, a 89 stories tall tower that was built in 2005-2009 at a prominent site near the Chicago River. It was designed by Adrian Smith of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, a prolific Chicago architectural firm that built many of Chicago's tallest skyscrapers including the John Hancock Center and Willis Tower.
Willis Tower
Willis TowerFact Sheet
For more than thirty years the Sears Tower was the world's tallest building, with a height of 442 meters / 1451 ft. Structural engineer Fazlur Kahn devised an inventive technique of separate tubes to withstand strong lateral forces. The tower, originally named after a chain of department stores headquartered here before fleeing to the suburbs is now known as the Willis Tower.   Read More...
Wrigley Building
Wrigley BuildingFact Sheet
The Wrigley Building is one of Chicago's most famous landmarks thanks to its magnificent design with a sparkling white terra-cotta facade and an elegant tower modeled on the Giralda Tower in Seville. The tower was the first of a group of historic skyscrapers that were built in the 1920s near the Michigan Avenue bridge at the start of what is now known as the Magnificent Mile.   Read More...
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