Chicago Architecture

Chicago Architecture Resources

There is much to learn about the modern architecture in Chicago,  for those who want to learn more…

Here are a few books to help you further appreciate Chicago’s modern architecture:

The Modern Wing: Renzo Piano and The Art Institute of Chicago

by James Cuno, Mr. Paul Goldberger, Joseph Rosa, Judith Turner 2009

The museum’s director, James Cuno, discusses the history of the commission, and Paul Goldberger writes on how this building fits into the larger context of Piano’s work—especially his many museum designs—as well as considers its positioning in a city celebrated for its architecture. Judith Turner provides exquisite architectural photographs, showing many nuanced details and views of the structure, while Joseph Rosa comments on her images and how they convey the beauty and sophistication of the building. Photographs by New York-based architectural photographer Paul Warchol complete the book.  Renzo Piano’s largest museum to date.

Millennium Park: Creating a Chicago Landmark (Historical Studies of Urban America)

by Timothy Gilfoyle 2006

Gilfoyle studied the history of downtown; spent years with the planners, artists, and public officials behind Millennium Park; documented it at every stage of its construction; and traced the skeins of financing through municipal government, global corporations, private foundations, and wealthy civic leaders. The result is a thoroughly readable and lavishly illustrated testament to the park, the city, and all those attempting to think and act on a monumental scale.

Chicago Architecture and Design

By Jay Pridmore, George A. Larson, Hedrich Blessing (Photographer) 2005

Looking at famous structures from the inside out, the book has won praise for its emphasis on the graceful interiors of Chicago’s finest buildings. The vivid text discusses the life and work of such towering figures as Daniel Burnham, Louis H. Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe, as well as that of the many lesser-known builders who have contributed to Chicago’s reputation as “an architect’s city.”

Bertrand Goldberg: Architecture of Invention (Art Institute of Chicago)

By Zoe Ryan, Alison Fisher, Elizabeth Smith, Sarah Whiting  2011

Bertrand Goldberg was a visionary Chicago architect whose designs for housing, urban planning, and industrial design made a distinctive mark in the modern era. In 1959, he conceived the plan for  the sixty-story Marina City residential towers, in the heart of downtown Chicago. He created a number of hospitals that offered a new paradigm for how patients and staff interacted within the space. Goldberg’s progressive designs also extended to schools, prefabricated structures, and furniture.

Chicago Makes Modern: How Creative Minds Changed Society

By Mary Jane Jacob 2012

Chicago is a city dedicated to the modern—from the skyscrapers that punctuate its skyline to the spirited style that inflects many of its dwellings and institutions, from the New Bauhaus to Hull-House. Despite this, the city has long been overlooked as a locus for modernism in the arts, its rich tradition of architecture, design, and education disregarded. Still the modern in Chicago continues to thrive, as new generations of artists incorporate its legacy into fresh visions for the future. Chicago Makes Modern boldly remaps twentieth-century modernism from our new-century perspective.


A Guide to Modern Architecture


There is no city I have been to that celebrates architecture the way Chicago does.  It really is an architecture groupie’s fantasy and this city makes visiting these architectural gems easy with what seems like an endless number of tour opportunities.

1.  Chicago Architecture Foundation

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is definitely a huge resource; Chicago Architecture Foundation there are a ton of links and information on their website.  The CAF runs a wide selection of tours and has several membership offers which give discounts and free tours as a benefit.  You don’t need to live in Chicago to become a member and depending on the types of activities you plan to do it could be a great deal.  Learn more at Chicago Architecture Foundation Membership.


The archicenter is operated by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  You can spend hours in this store; the variety of architecture merchandise is incredible, take a peek at their online store ARCHICENTER.  Located at 224 South Michigan Avenue across from the Art Institute of Chicago.

3.  Chicago Tour Foundation

The Chicago Tour Foundation offers a wide variety of tours where you can choose from modes such as boat, walking, bus/trolley, train, bike and even segway.  The tour guides are Chicago Architecture Foundation-certified volunteers who receive hundreds of hours of training about Chicago architecture and history.  It is recommended to purchase tickets in advanced because some tours frequently sell out, particularly on weekends and holidays. The Tour center is located in the Archicenter store mention above.  For more information visit:

Chicago Boat Tour

I highly recommend taking a boat tour in Chicago, the vantage point of the skyscrapers from the water is unsurpassed and the proximity to the bridges overhead.

4.  Mies van der Rohe

The Mies van der Rohe Society offers architectural tours specific to the tale of Mies and the Illinois Institute of Technology offering both a docent-led or self-guided audio tours.

Visit:  Mies van der Rohe and IIT: An Architectural Tour

5.  Frank Lloyd Wright

For everything Frank Lloyd Wright The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Fund is the place to find it.  It was established in 1974 as a not-for-profit organization, to acquire and preserve Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park and is now made of more than 500 volunteers providing tours of these historic.

Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Fund offers guided and self-guided tours of Oak Park, an area filled with Wright’s Victorian and Prairie Style architecture.

Visit:   Walking Tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District

Public Tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio from 1889 to 1898 is offered daily.  His home offers insight into the first 20 years of his career, where he experimented with design concepts and raised six children with his first wife, Catherine Tobin.

Visit:  The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour

The Robie House was completed in 1910 and is considered a masterpiece of the Prairie style and modernist architecture.  Tours of the site offer both a first-hand experience of its amazingly contemporary spaces and the current restoration work.  Tours are not offered daily, visit Public Tours of the Robie House for more information.

Visit:  Wright’s Robie House

6.  Visit a Tower

John Hancock Observatory ViewA trip to Chicago is not complete until you have gone up one of the tallest towers there, it is the birth place of the skyscraper after all.  Definitely the John Hancock Tower Observatory or Willis Tower’s Skydeck are tops on the list.  From the top you will get a great view of the city and there is nothing like being on the 94 stories or 103 stories above the ground.  I don’t think you need to do both so choose wisely, I am a bit partial to the John Hancock, let me know what you think.

7.  Open house Chicago

The Chicago Architecture Foundation organizes an annual weekend festival where over a hundred of Chicago’s architectural gems are opened to the public for free!  Open House Chicago typically occurs in October it is a great time to visit.

Check out more at:

Let me know if this helps you on your Chicago travels or if you have any other helpful tips.

A Guide to Modern Architecture

Chicago Architecture Guide


Chicago Digital Map NOW available!