[Details about all of these buildings can be found in the AIA Guide to Chicago (available from, which definitely should accompany you on your trip around Chicago]  Buildings I think of as “must-sees” are underlined in bold


Architectural Highlights of the Loop:


[Beginning at River North and heading south on N. Dearborn]


Daley Center  [south of Randolph, west of Dearborn] (19650 C. F. Murphy Assocs. and SOM.  Not really that good a design—a very interesting contrast to Mies’s Federal Center (see below).  Check out the Picasso sculpture in the plaza.


Marquette Building  [NW corner of Adams and Dearborn]  (1893-5) Hollabird and Roche.  A truly great building in the Chicago style by the much underrated, but incredibly wonderful partnership of Hollabird and Roche. (For an excellent book on the firm—and  an unusually profound look into what the actual dynamics of this of architectural firm that built many of Chicago’s finest buildings were, see Bob Bruegmann’s The Architects and the City.)  The massing of the form and the movement of the surface detail work in a surprisingly pleasing way.  The steel skeleton of this building is clad in brick terra-cotta; the magnificent cornice has recently been re-added to the building (using some lighter, modern high-techmaterials), with great success. Don’t miss the lobby [enter from Dearborn side], as it is incredible.


Federal Plaza  [between Adams and Jackson]  (1959-74) Mies van der Rohe.  A magnificent creation of an entire one block public space (note the way the buildings and their siting control and integrate the forms outside the actual area—what the Japanese refer to as "the stolen garden") by the master, Mies.  Savor the way the space is sculpted and the movement of pedestrians is accommodated and shaped.  The buildings themselves are stately and beautiful, and there is a Calder sculpture wonderfully integrated into the plaza.


[turn right (west) onto Jackson]


Monadnock Building  (1889-91) Burnham and Root.  This is an important building in the history of Chicago’s architectural development (see AIA Guide) done by the important firm that included the great David Burnham, but I really do not find it all that successful.


[continue west on Jackson to La Salle; turn right (north)]


The Rookery  [209 E. La Salle] (1885-8) Burnham and Root; lobbies and interior court renovated (1907) Frank Lloyd Wright .  Built around a grand, open central court, covered by a glass roof that lets in outside light (be certain to get inside to see it!), this building is a complete joy.  The façade has unbelievable detail, and the building itself is splendid in its form.  The details of the interior added by Wright are extremely successful.


[turn back south on Adams and go to Jackson]


Chicago Board of Trade [directly in front of you] (1930) Hollabird and Root.  This is a much later building, but a successful one.


[turn left (east) on Jackson to Clark; right (south) on Clark to Van Buren; left on Van Buren to Dearborn]


Old Colony Building  [407 S. Dearborn] (1894) Hollabird and Roche.  Another lovely and interesting building by this great team.  Note the rounded corner bays.


[continue east on Jackson to Wabash; turn right (south) on Wabash to Congress]


Auditorium Building  [410 S. Michigan Avenue] (1887-9) Adler and Sullivan.  This great concert hall is contained within a stately, weighty building (with a nod to the Romanesque feel of H. H. Richardson).  The interior is of much lighter design, with incredibly beautiful and complex detail.  (Try to arrange to be here when it is possible to get  a tour of the hall--or, better still, attend a performance.)


[continue east to Grant Park (worth exploring in its own right); turn left and go north on Michigan]


Santa Fe Center  [224 S. Michigan Ave.] (1904) D. H. Burnham & Co.  Another building constructed around one of Burnham’s signature interior light courts (cf., The Rookery).  White, glazed terra-cotta skin, with an unusual course of porthole windows beneath the cornice.


Monroe Building  [104 S. Michigan Ave.] (1912) Hollabird and Roche.  Look inside this gabled building to see the vaulted lobby.


Edson Keith and Theodore Ascher Buildings  [24 & 30 S. Michigan Ave] (1899) Hollabird and Roche. 

Gage Building  [18 S. Michigan Ave.] (1899) Louis Sullivan


[turn left and go west on Madison to State]


Carson Pirie Scott & Co.  [1 S. State St.] (1899, 1903) Louis Sullivan.  Sullivan’s “Form follows structure” archetype, this large department store became a major building paradigm.  The emphasis is on the horizontal, with unbroken string courses.  Note the marvelously complex detail of the metal tracery, especially at the entrance.


[head north on State Street]


Reliance Building  [32 N. State St.] (Foundations and base, 1891) Burnham and Root; (Additional stories, 1895) D. H. Burnham & Co. Wonderfully proportioned and detailed building, with deeply undulating bays—containing the fullest early example of the “Chicago window”—a large central picture window, flanked by two narrow double hung windows.  This is now the Hotel Burnham, and the café/restaurant on the main floor is a nice place for a coffee or light meal—which provides a chance to see some of the interior details.


Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago:


FLW's Home and Studio  [951 Chicago Avenue, in Oak Park] Tours are available of his studio and home (an early example of his prairie style) and of the many other houses he did in this neighborhood. [take Green Line to end]


Robie House  [corner of 58th St. and S. Woodlawn Ave.] 1910.  Another fantastic FLW monument, a great example of the fully-developed prairie style (while there, check out Rafael Viñoly’s building for the Business School of the University of Chicago across the street.


The Frank Loyd Wright Preservation Trust (the place for descriptions of Wright’s works in Chicago, plus directions for getting there, hours and schedules, online ticket purchase, etc.)


Other Architectural Attractions:


860-880 Lake Shore Drive Fantastic grouping of marvelous Mies van der Rohe apartment buildings


Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.  [corner of 58th St. and S. Woodlawn Ave.]

Completed in 2004, this quite simply is an extraordinary building, a true masterpiece of architecture, worth a special journey to see (which I guess means I'm awarding it three Michelin stars?).


The site of this building, located between Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style masterpiece, the Robie House, to its north and the College Gothic of the Rockefeller Chapel to its West (not to mention the College Gothic of the rest of the University of Chicago campus), was a crucial factor in its conception and plan.  Although the size and nature of the GSB is radically different from that of the Robie house, Viñoly respects its scale, materials, and horizontality in a way that makes his building seem to work with the Robie House, rather than to struggle against it;  the monumental cantilever of the Dean's office overhanging the main entrance of the GSB harmonizes with the cantilevered end of the Robie House.  On the other hand, the structural elements used to create the Winter Garden--ribbed groin vaults springing from the tops of engaged columns and forming point arches--are specific connections to the defining elements of Gothic architecture that evoke in the most emotional of ways memories of Gothic cathedrals.  Nevertheless, the building itself is totally modern in its feel and conception, and represents a creation that is a unique statement of its own.

To begin with, the GSB is a fantastic form:  the shapes and volumes are powerful yet gentle, individually assertive yet harmonious. And the mix of materials is a true tour de force:  the progression from Chicago limestone to metracast to metal and glass is so effective, and so architectural:  everything works to express the nuances of the spaces and functions--and the way the materials are drawn from the exterior into the interior is incredibly effective in a way that Frank Lloyd Wright would have appreciated.

The interior simply works perfectly.  It is a space with grandeur and majesty, but one that is warm and completely livable.   It is so characteristic of Viñoly to pay such attention to creating spaces that will nurture human interaction and enhance the humanity of the work that will be done in it.  There are intimate sitting areas at the landings of skylit stairways between office floors that practically beckon to people to pause to have conversations.  Movement within the building is shaped to encourage interaction.  And the way light is drawn into the building--even down to the floor below grade--makes the entirety of the building quintessentially livable and vital.  And the views of the surrounding buildings and spaces are drawn inward through the brilliantly placed windows and masterfully planned sight lines.  The colors that Viñoly has chosen for the office floors are astoundingly beautiful--effective and daring in ways that are nevertheless understated and subtle.

The interactive social heart of the building, the Winter Garden, is simply one of the finest spaces I've seen anywhere.  Even the taper of the ribs increasing the incredible sense of the spring of the vaults adds to the sense of their height and movement.  (Move over Abbot Suger! At times the GSB really does give the feeling of a Gothic cathedral--especially when the columns and vaults are repeated in their reflection in the glass behind).  But this is not Gothic architecture:  while these elements are borrowed directly from the principles of Gothic structure, they are used here to a radically novel end.  The vaults, their enclosed areas filled in completely with glass, form the ceiling itself, and the wonderful, funnel-shaped volumes that are created within their springing are actually open to the sky and the elements:  rain washes down into each of the four funnels and is carried down through the centers of the engaged columns.  And the Winter Garden is totally fascinating viewed from every level of the GSB:  each vantage point provides a different and effective interaction with this central core.  And the entirety of the building  is totally wonderful viewed from outside.  And then there is the way it looks after dark...


It is impossibly inadequate to attempt to describe this marvel in'll just have to go visit it.  In the meantime, you can view some of the photographs of it on the University of Chicago's website; and you can check out some photographs on the Rafael Viñoly Associates site at, and then going to "Projects/Works" and finding the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.





Topolobampo.   Rick Bayless has created an outstanding culinary triumph with this, his gourmet Mexican restaurant—yes, that is completely correct, a gourmet Mexican restaurant!  This place is worth a trip to Chicago—and we have done just that on occasion. From the wonderful selection of margaritas, right through to the now wonderful desserts (from his new pastry chef), the food here is completely exquisite. (Current menus can be viewed online at Topolobampo - Menu, although they change with some regularity.)   Most unusual and rewarding is the five course tasting menu, especially when accompanied by the five different wines selected by sommelier, Jill Gubesch.  (Not only does her extensive knowledge of wine allow her to introduce you to some incredible things you have never tasted before, her remarkable knowledge of cooking—she was a chef before becoming a sommelier—enables her to create wine-food combinations that relate to and enhance the complexity of the dishes Mr. Bayless creates.)  The tasting menu is $70, or $105 with the wines.  Reservations can be hard to come by, so call far in advance! (The somewhat less elaborate sister establishment next door, Frontera Grill, does not take reservations, but consequently can have waiting times measured in hours.)  445 N. Clark St. (bet. Hubbard & Illinois Sts.) Chicago, IL, 60610,  312.661.1434, closed Sundays and Mondays.


Charlie Trotter’s.  Put simply, Charlie Trotter’s is a restaurant that you would fight to get into in New York.  It is a truly elegant and refined dining experience.  Mr. Trotter serves only tasting menus, and they are truly symphonies of culinary beauty.  (Current examples can be found online at cuisine, although they change with some regularity.)  One must also remember that the set menus do not mean one needs to put up with anything one does not wish to eat:  if there is any dish that does not appeal, he will replace it with another—and, if no particular option fits your needs or desires, a completely new dish will be created on the spot!  Mr. Trotter describes his cooking as a “Highly personal cuisine combining impeccable products, French techniques and Asian influences.”  This is a very upscale place, and jackets are a requirement.  The wine list is interesting with some excellent choices, but on the whole very over-priced; the service and ambiance are wonderful.  The only slight imperfection is that the restaurant is way out in the Lincoln Park area, a long cab ride from downtown. 816 W. Armitage Ave. (Halsted St.) Chicago, IL, 60614, 773.248.6228, closed Sundays and most Mondays.

Corner Bakeries.  Unlike the august culinary palaces mentioned above, the Corner Bakeries are a wonderful, homey, chain of eateries scattered throughout Chicago—and I sincerely wish they were scattered throughout New York, as well, as they are a treat, particularly for breakfast (but not bad for lunch, either)!  The first of these is near the Westin Chicago River North: 516 N. Clark St. (312) 644-8100; 1121 N. State St. (312) 787-1969; 140 S. Riverside Pl. (312) 920-9100; 222 S. Riverside Plaza (773) 441-0821; 224 S. Michigan (312) 431-7600;  676 St. Clair St. (312) 266-2570; 78 E. Washington St. (312) 201-0805; 900 N. Michigan (312) 573-9900; 638 Central (847) 433-4638; Roosevelt Rd. @ Lake Shore Drive (312) 588-1040; 676 N. St. Clair (773) 266-2570; Adams St. Concourse (773) 441-0821


Garrett Popcorn Shops.  Another Chicago treasure: this chain sells the most amazing caramel corn in the world!  670 N. Michigan (between, Erie and Huron), 4 E. Madison, 26 E. Randolph, and 2 W. Jackson.  It is too wicked, and I shouldn’t mention this, but it can be ordered online (although they’ll only ship via FedEx to insure freshness)— 


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