Exploring Chicago Architecture – The 11 Buildings You Must See

Exploring Chicago Architecture – The 11 Buildings You Must See

The Windy City is full of architectural wonders ranging in style and size. Here are some of the most interesting buildings in Chicago you shouldn’t miss.

There’s no question about Chicago’s status when it comes to architectural splendor. The city’s where you’ll find some of the oldest skyscrapers in the U.S., not to mention historic churches and houses. 

Many of these structures are worth taking a thorough look at, both for their aesthetic value and the craftsmanship involved. 

Certainly, there can be no list that showcases every Chicago building worth seeing. But if you take the time to visit those listed in this article, you won’t regret the decision. 

Start going through our list of the most interesting buildings in Chicago and pick your favorites.

1. Tribune Tower

Tribune Tower in Chicago

The legendary tower was completed in 1925 and was intended as a new office building for the Chicago Tribune. 

Made in the Neo-Gothic style, the Tribune Tower is 36 stories tall and adorned with spires and arch buttresses. It’s covered with Indiana limestone, while stones from various historical locations have been embedded into the structure. 

The former Tribune office building, it’s now converted into a residential and condo area but remains a gem among Chicago skyscrapers.

2. Thalia Hall

Chicago Thalia Hall

Thalia Hall currently houses the well-known Dusek’s Board and Beer restaurant and a concert space. The restaurant got its name from John Dusek, the creator of Thalia Hall who imagined the building as a home stage for Bohemian entertainers. 

While the building today remains in its original shape, the only 19th-century features still in place are its light fixtures and ceilings.

3. Aqua Tower

Aqua Tower in Chicago

Viewed by some as impressive and by others as a bit tacky, the Aqua Tower is nevertheless a fascinating piece of architecture. 

It features concrete balconies shaped as waves on the background of blue glass. Although the building has already won awards, the architects of Studio Gang have already announced future projects that will likely be as extravagant as the tower.

4. Baha’i House of Worship

Chicago Baha'i House of Worship

Built for four decades, the Baha’i House of Worship is one of only 10 Baha’i temples in the world. The temple is inspired by classic far-eastern architecture, with its bright white color and filled with intricate decorations, flat-top spires, and gorgeous arched windows. 

When you add in the lakefront and the wonderful surrounding garden, it’s clear that a visit to the Baha’i House of Worship is a complete delight.

5. The Jeweler’s Building

The Jeweler's Building in Chicago

The Jeweler’s building, or 35 East Wacker, was once a hub for diamond jewelers. It has quite a unique exterior that features a recognizable dome on top and the Father Time clock. 

This building has become so iconic that it amassed its fair share of movie and TV cameos. You’ll understand why it’s so popular if you can catch a view of it from an elevated position. 

6. Trump International Hotel and Tower

Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago

The work of the world-famous architect who spearheaded the Burj Khalifa, the Trump International Hotel and Tower functions as a condo-hotel. 

Completed in 2009, this building is the second-tallest in Chicago and includes three setback features, with each matching a nearby building by height. 

It’s covered by curtain walls, making them lightweight, and the premium-quality materials give the tower a unique look that distinguishes it from other neighboring structures.

7. Harold Washington Library

Chicago Harold Washington Library

At the time of its opening in 1991, the Harold Washington Library was unrivaled in size as a city library. It stands today as an impressive piece of architecture with design elements that mirror those of the nearby world-famous Rookery and Monadnock buildings. 

However, the feature that makes the Harold Washington Library stand out the most is the set of highly-stylized owl sculptures that adorn the corners and middle points of the roof.

8. Wrigley Building

Wrigley Building in Chicago

Across the street from the Tribune Tower and across the bridge from Trump Tower Chicago lies this iconic architectural marvel. 

The Wrigley Building may look like a single building at different angles but it actually comprises two buildings. And on the 14th floor is where you’ll find the walkway that connects them. 

The fascinating structure’s covered in white stones of different shades, which is why it appears bright under the evening city lights. Certainly one of the more recognizable structures in the city, the Wrigley Building is deserving of its fame.

9. Unity Temple

Chicago Unity Temple

Frank Lloyd Wright’s work is so well-known and famous that we’ve deliberately left some of his best-known Chicago buildings out of this list. 

However, the Unity Temple deserves a mention here. 

The building represents an intriguing, unorthodox work, as it’s a mostly unadorned concrete structure. It was built for the Universalist congregation’s needs and Wright used the principles of the faith as inspiration for the building that has since become a National Landmark.

10. Civic Opera House

Civic Opera House in Chicago

Standing out as an example of Art Nouveau, the Civic Opera House is a stunning monolith overlooking the Chicago River. 

It’s shaped like a throne and adorned with Art Deco elements, offering an unforgettable sight. This authentic wonder of architecture that’s completed in 1926 houses the Lyric Opera. 

The opera house was a project of billionaire and opera lover Samuel Insull, who partially served as inspiration for the cinematic classic Citizen Kane.

11. Rookery Building

Chicago Rookery Building

Leaving one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most impressive works for last, we would be remiss not to mention the Rookery Building located downtown in the Financial District

It’s constructed as a prime example of the Chicago School of Architecture and received a redesign by Wright in 1907. The lobby showcases Wright’s unique Prairie style that you’ll have to see for yourself. 

Today, the Rookery Building is included in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Delight in the Architectonic Paradise

It should go without saying that this article can’t begin to exhaust the list of the most interesting buildings in Chicago. The city has architectural marvels everywhere you look.

So if you’re interested in one-of-a-kind buildings, you’ll love Chicago for sure.

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Exploring Chicago Architecture – The 11 Buildings You Must See