Chicago’s Cloud Scrapers Rise
I’m very happy to be in Chicago (it’s my kind of town).
Architecturally I should start with the Art Institute building by Daniel Burnham with its typical Beaux Arts style so popular at this time. But as I am looking at the development of buildings technically, I would say this building is the key, the Monadnock Building by Burnham & Root, 1889-91:
To reach an impressive 16 storeys high with solid wall construction, the walls are 72 inches thick at the base! I’ve been excited to see this building, as it is important historically, but was surprised how elegant is with a sculpted curves disguising its bulk.
The Monadnock building, with its thick thick walls reducing usable floor plan, made it clear that this way of building was unsustainable and uneconomical. The Monikdam bldg was extended using a steel frame so it is interesting to see both techniques of building in the same building. You can see how the window span has opened up:
The skeleton frame allowed us to build much taller. All of the structure of the building is within the frame and the cladding or ‘curtain wall’ could be hung from the frame, starting in the middle going up if preferable.
The Rookery, 1888, by Burnham & Root has a weighty design and a solidness to it, the base plinth is made of nice heavy rusticated stone to anchor the building. This is put the public at ease as people were very uncertain of going up such a tall building. It goes not have those vertical elements that soon became popular. Interestingly you can see the steel from round the side of the building, but this is hidden from view.
One of the first steel framed skyscrapers is the Marquette Building, 1985, designed by Holabird and Roche and is typical of the Chicago School of architecture. (The northern part of the building 1891 is load bearing) It is a gorgeous brown thick terracotta, apparently it used to be more reddish in colour, but years of pollution from the Loop have darkened its tone.
3 characteristics of the Chicago School that help identify the style are:
- The external frame expresses the frame structure, windows can be much larger as they span the frame, giving the building a ‘cell like’ structure.
- 3 sections – the base is the first floor and is usually the commercial space of the building. The middle is relatively plain. The top floor is more ornate topped with a decorated cornice
- Chicago School windows are in 3 parts; a large fixed centre part, flanked by 2 vertical sash providing good ventilation.