Architecture

23 Buildings You Shouldn’t Miss in Chicago If You Are An Architect

Chicago, 11.30 am on a Saturday. They call it the windy city but there is no wind today, as you walk through Michigan Avenue. The sun is softly hitting you in the face and, although it’s cold, you have a warm feeling. There is a bunch of people on the street today but it’s not too packed or too busy. As you walk by, you feel happy; you feel you fit into this urban grid. The skyscrapers, aren’t really high at all – the scale feels right and the streets are wide and sunny. Then you realize you don’t ever want to leave this city; you realize you fell in love with it.

Chicago’s architecture (its scale, its disposition in the urban grid and its composition) makes the city such an amazing place to discover. Some architecture lovers appreciate this charm on a daily basis and know these buildings by heart, but if you don’t, check out this list and enjoy Chicago’s magnificent architecture. After all, it is the best city in the world.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Aqua Tower by Studio Gang

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Aqua Tower by Studio Gang Corner

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Aqua Tower by Studio Gang Skyline Views

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Aqua Tower by Studio Gang Plan and Section
1.
Aqua Tower
Location: 2000 N Columbus Dr.
Architect: Gang Studio
Year: 2009
Description: It is the tallest building in the United States designed by a woman: Architect Jeanne Gang. Its rectangular shaped floor plan integrates terraces in a sculptural form. These undulating terraces simulate the water movement and are sometimes cantilevered up to 3.5 meters. Read more here.


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2.
The Poetry Foundation
Location: 61 W Superior St.
Architect: John Ronan Architects
Year: 2011
Description: Like a poem that invites multiple readings, the space encourages repeated visits, revealing itself slowly over time. That is why the building is organized in a series of layers. Opens Mon-Fri (11 am – 4 pm). Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Skyline Architecture Hancock

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Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago from Above- Downtown Views from Hancock Tower

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - John Hancock Tower by SOM Plan and section
3.
Hancock Tower
Location: 875 N Michigan Ave.
Architect: Skidmore, Owing and Merril (SOM)
Year: 1968
Description: It is the 4th tallest tower in Chicago. There is free access to the signature lounge on the 96th floor, which is extremely nice at sunset as you can see in the panorama above. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright Interior

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright Plans

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4.
Robie House
Location:
5757 S Woodlawn Ave.
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Year: 1910
Description: The house is a masterpiece of the Prairie style and a forerunner of modernism in architecture. Lloyd Wright broke down old barriers, creating a residential design with a horizontal roofline, large overhanging eaves, continuous ribbons of windows, and a wide-open living space at its center.  Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - The Art Institute by Renzo Piano

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - The Art Institute by Renzo Piano- Skyline Views

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - The Art Institute by Renzo Piano Facade Section

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The Art Institute
Location: 111 South Michigan Ave.
Architect: Renzo Piano (modern wing)
Year: 2012
Description: The Modern Wing is the new home for the museum’s collection of 20th and 21st-century art. A decade in the making, this 264,000 square-foot building makes the Art Institute the second-largest art museum in the United States. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Aon Center by Edward Durell Stone and Perkins and Will From Art Institute

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Aon Center by Edward Durell Stone and Perkins and Will

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Aon Center by Edward Durell Stone and Perkins and Will Plans
6
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Aon Center
Location: 200 East Randolph St.
Architect: Edward Durell Stone and Perkins and Will
Year: 1974
Description: At the time of its completion, this was the fourth-tallest building in the world and  the world’s tallest marble-clad building (being sheathed entirely with 43,000 slabs of Carrara marble). However, this wasn’t the most appropriate system since little after the building was completed its facade began to buckle. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Prentice Womens Hospital

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Prentice Womens Hospital by B Goldberg- Detail Facade

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Prentice Womens Hospital Interior

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Prentice Women’s Hospital
Location: 333 E. Superior St.
Architect: Bertrand Goldberg & Associates
Year: 1975
Description: Unfortunately, this brutalist design is under demolition and it is planed to be replaced with a medical research facility. It was a vacant hospital on the Downtown Chicago campus of Northwestern University. I really wanted to keep its memory in this article even if it won’t be there any more. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Mies van der Rohe

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Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Mies van der Rohe Diagram Skyline Views

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Mies van der Rohe Floor plan
8.
Lake Shore Drive Apartments
Location: 880 N Lake Shore Dr.
Architect: Mies van der Rohe
Year: 1951
Description: Mies van der Rohe’s design for these towers was initially not accepted because it was considered to be too extreme (yikes!). The materials are common: steel, aluminum and glass. Yet what made these building so special was the structural clarity and composition, which followed his principle “less is more” as it is demonstrated in his self-proclaimed “skin and bones” architecture. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Charnley-Persky House by Frank Lloyd Wright and Sullivan 1950

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Charnley-Persky House by Frank Lloyd Wright and Sullivan Interior

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Charnley-Persky House by Frank Lloyd Wright and Sullivan Plan

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Charnley-Persky House by Frank Lloyd Wright and Sullivan
9.
Charnley-Persky House
Location: 1365 N Astor St.
Architect: Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright
Year: 1891-1892
Description: It is one of the oldest houses of Chicago (with Glessner and Clarke Houses) and it is said to be the first modern house in Chicago. The red house next to it was built shortly before, and the differences are amazing. Free tours are offered on Wednesday afternoons. Read more here.


Sears Tower

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Sears Tower by SOM Sky Deck

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Sears Tower by SOM views

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Sears Tower by SOM Floor Plan
10.
Sears Tower
Location: 233 South Wacker Drive
Architect: Skidmore, Owing and Merril (SOM)
Year: 1973
Description: At the time of its completion in 1973 was the tallest building on earth, holding this rank for over 25years! You can go up to the top and be amazed by the 360º views of Chicago, Lake Michigan and the Illinois plain, on a clear day you can see up to 50miles and 4states! Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Wood Pavilion by Studio Gang Night

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11.
Wood Pavilion
Location: 2001 N Clark St. (Lincoln Park Zoo)
Architect: Gang Studio
Year: 2010
Description: Ok, this is not a building but it’s a pretty interesting pavilion. The project transforms a picturesque urban pond from the 19th century into an ecological habitat buzzing with life. The way it’s constructed is very unique. Read more here.


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12.
Marina Towers
Location: 300 North State St.
Architect: Bertrand Golberg
Year: 1964
Description: This building complex was the first circular apartment buildings in history, with its iconic corn cob towers, and identical floor plans.  It was designed as a self-contained town, full of residential and commercial units.. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Museum of Contemporary Art by Josef Paul Kleihues

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Museum of Contemporary Art by Josef Paul Kleihues interior

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Museum of Contemporary Art by Josef Paul Kleihues stair
13. Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago
Location: 220 East Chicago Ave.
Architect: Josef Paul Kleihues
Year: 1996
Description: The MCA was the first project in the United States by architect Josef Paul Kleihues and it hosted the first Frida Kahlo’s expo in the US too. The stairwell is remarkable. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies by Krueck

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14.
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies
Location:
610 South Michigan Avenue
Architect: Krueck and Sexton
Year: 2007
Description: Spertus, set in the Historic Michigan Boulevard District designed by architects such as Burnham and Sullivan, resembles an exquisitely cut diamond placed into the great wall of stone that rises like a cliff across Grant Park. Its faceted and folded glass façade is an expression of light, both metaphorical and actual. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Crown Hall by Mies van der Rohe

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15.
Crown Hall
Location:
3360 S. State St. (Illinois Institute of Technology)
Architect: Mies van der Rohe
Year: 1956
Description:  Crown Hall is a straightforward expression of construction and materiality. The building has an open plan that does not have the disruption of columns. With a ceiling height of 18 feet and a massive floor area of 120′ by 220′, the architecture school contains perfect studio spaces that allow creative interaction among users. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Joe and Rika Mansueto Library by Helmut Jahn

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Joe and Rika Mansueto Library by Helmut Jahn Interior

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Joe and Rika Mansueto Library by Helmut Jahn Section Plan

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Joe and Rika Mansueto Library by Helmut Jahn Section
16.
The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library
Location:
S Ellis Ave + 57th St. (University of Chicago)
Architect: Helmut Jahn
Year: 2011
Description: The problem was to store 3.5 million books with an Automated Storage and Retrieval System this is why it has that section type. The structural grid-shell of 120 x 240 ft. and the insulated glazing represent a very minimal and intelligent system for mediating between the varying exterior conditions and the desired interior comfort. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Max Palevsky Residential Commons by Legorreta and Legorreta Facade

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Max Palevsky Residential Commons by Legorreta and Legorreta Interior 2

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Max Palevsky Residential Commons by Legorreta and Legorreta Interior

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Max Palevsky Residential Commons by Legorreta and Legorreta
17.
Max Palevsky Residential Commons
Location:
1101 E. 56th St. (University of Chicago)
Architect: Legorreta + Legorreta
Year: 2001
Description: The building’s design bears a strong relationship to the scale and materials of the built context, while at the same time embodying a contemporary solution. Besides that, it has Legorreta’s particular signature with bright and warm colors. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Logan Center University of Chicago by Tod Williams and

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Logan Center University of Chicago by Tod Williams Deck

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Logan Center University of Chicago by Tod Williams Interior

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18.
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
Location:
915 E 60th St. (University of Chicago)
Architect: Tod Williams and Billie Tsien
Year: 2012
Description: The presence of the tower on the south side of the Midway announces a new home for the creative life of students and faculty and a public venue for residents of the city. The Performance Penthouse has amazing views. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Frank Lloyd Wright Studio House

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Frank Lloyd Wright Studio House- Facade Details

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Frank Lloyd Wright Studio House- Dining Room

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Frank Lloyd Wright Studio House- Studio

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Frank Lloyd Wright Studio House Plans
19.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
Location:
951 Chicago Avenue (Oak Park)
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Year: 1889
Description: Frank Lloyd Wright used his first home to experiment with design concepts that contain the seeds of his architectural philosophy. In his adjacent studio, Wright and his associates developed a new American architecture – the Prairie style. The original 1889 structure was quite small and it was extensively remodeled in 1895, when among other changes the kitchen was enlarged and converted to a dining room. The Wrights raised six children in the home. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright Exterior

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright Interior

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20.
Unity Temple
Location:
 875 Lake St. (Oak Park)
Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
Year: 1908
Description: Before the Robie House, Fallingwater, and the Guggenheim, his career was just beginning to take off in Oak Park and more precisely at Unity Temple. The church is poised as an important work for the Modernist movement in the early 20th Century, but it was also the foundation from which the Prairie School would originate into Wright’s architectural language. Read more here.


Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Bahai Temple Aerial View

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Bahai Temple

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Bahai Temple interior

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Bahai Temple Floor Plan
21.
Baha’i House of Worship
Location:
100 Linden Ave. (Wilmette)
Architect: Louis Bourgeois and Alfred Shaw (interiors)
Year: 1921-1953
Description: One of only seven Baha’i temples in the world at present, this unique structure symbolizes unity and invites prayer to God. It has nine sides and is surrounded by exquisite gardens and fountains. The diameter of the dome is 90 feet. Read more here.


The Sun Lowering Behind Trump Tower and the Wrigley Building Ove

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Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Trump Tower Restaurant

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22.
Trump Tower
Location:
401 North Wabash Ave.
Architect: Skidmore, Owing and Merril (SOM)
Year: 2009
Description: With its 92-story structure and 423m (1,389 feet) was finally ranked the 6th tallest building in its time of completion and the second tallest skyscraper in western hemisphere, behind Sears Tower. The design of the building includes, from the ground up, retail space, a parking garage, a restaurant and lounge, a spa, a hotel, and condominiums. Read more here.


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Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry Model

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Buildings for Architects - Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry Plan
23.
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Location:
201 E Randolph St. (Millenium Park)
Architect: Frank Gehry
Year: 2004
Description: This open-air venue features performances by the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, as well as jazz, blues, and other world music performances. Clad in stainless steel panels, that frame the stage opening and connect to an overhead trellis of curved steel pipes, the Pavilion is a highly sculptural design element intended to act as a focal point for the Millennium Park. Read more here.


This list could keep going forever, so if you want more amazing architecture check these and other amazing buildings of Chicago on the map below or download the Free Architecture Guide of Chicago.


Learn where to Take The Best Skyline Pictures in Chicago

Virginia Duran Blog- Chicago Best Skyline Views- Lake Point Tower Restaurant

70 thoughts on “23 Buildings You Shouldn’t Miss in Chicago If You Are An Architect

      • Aaaah, The Poetry Foundation I miss so much that building, my favourite little spot of Chicago. I really hope the hospital doesn’t get demolished, is a shame the US doesn’t take preservation more seriously. If Italians had that attitude there would be nothing left of ancient architecture!

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      • Marina Towers is the essence of efficient design, with maximum window space for minimum floor area. And it looks like something from nature with no sharp angles. It was also well before its time with a reinforced concrete core that would have saved the Twin Towers if they had been designed with one.

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        • Marina Towers is one of the best buildings built in Chicago in the 60s. I had the chance to visit it on a regular basis since several friends lived there and must agree with you in its space efficience. Did you have the chance to visit Chicago?

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  1. Excuse me, my English is not so good and therefore I have not read the whole text. But the photos have I really enjoyed it. Since I love books, I naturally liked the pictures from the “Poetry Foundation” very. What to sit for a lovely place there behind these large windows in the sun, and to read as many books to have. Chicago I only know from the movie “Blues Brothers” and I did not know that there are so many exciting buildings there. Much of what looks like real art! But best of all I liked the cover. The warm yellow light that seems out of the building in the freezing winter is just awesome. Thank you for this wonderful “journey” by an obviously very beautiful city.

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    • Thanks so much for making the effort to write all that🙂 I perfectly understood. I have to say that The Poetry Foundation is my favourite little spot of Chicago. The space is such a nice place to read or even create. In general, it’s just an amazing city full of art and interesting places to visit. More upcoming articles on Chicago, stay tunned😀

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    • You must visit Chicago at least once, it’s better than New York believe me😉 The Art Institute is just great, there are so many interesting pieces too besides the great building which is always a pleasure to visit. And the wood pavilion is one of my favourite spots, is close to the zoo so there are always happy people around😀

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  2. The title should read “If you Love Architecture” as I am not an architect but I salivate over buildings of all kinds! I visited Chicago in the late 80s and took a couple of tours with an architectural conservation group (tried to Google it but don’t remember the name). I can’t go into the whole story here, but I was so enamored of the buildings I saw in the city, when I came home to LA I joined the newly formed Los Angeles Conservancy (which came into being mainly because of the arson fires at the Central Library) and became a docent… this in turn gave me a love of my own downtown area and all the wonderful 1920s buildings… and now the new buildings constructed since the late 80s… and eventually led me on a whole new path… you never know where life is going to lead you if you keep your eyes and mind open! I really enjoy all your posts…

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    • Haha you’re not the first person to tell me about the title and… you’re right😀 next time I will replace it for architecture lovers which is more accurate. I am happy to hear that Chicago was really inspiring to you and that you even got a career change due to your visit. I love these stories and yes, you never know! I am currently trying to be as open minded as possible and I see great things coming with the startup school…

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  3. Fantastic list. My first job out of college was in the old “Santa Fe” building on Michigan Avenue. Int he warm months, I would take my lunch and eat in Grant Park or somewhere else on the lakefront. Chicago’s skyline is my favorite.

    Small correction: The current MCA building opened in the 1996. When I lived in the city, I used to spend weekend afternoons wandering around that building. Those stairs are very cool.

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    • Really? So you actually know what I was talking about in the introduction. I used to work beside Millenium Park so I had lunch around that area in summer. Chicago is such a happy place, if you know how to appreciate its architecture and other amazing aspects.

      Thanks about the MCA building, just changed it😉

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  4. I call it art of making art. Architects compete who is going to build the tallest, the most spectacular, the most beautiful building ever. I can´t say who is the winner because they all look fabulous at the end.

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    • That’s a very nice way to say it. I can’t say which of this buildings is the best, I just love all of them. However, The Poetry Foundation is very outstanding. Is not a skyscraper ok, but is such a beautiful comfortable space. I love coming here any time I get a chance. Have you ever visited Chicago?

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  5. I enjoyed looking at all the buildings you identified in your list of “23 Buildings You Shouldn’t Miss…” — some of which I was not familiar with until reading your post.Thank you! I’m a member of the Baha’i Faith and was happy to see that you included the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette on your list. I hope your readers visit and take advantage of this special place for private prayer and meditation.

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    • The Baha’i House of Worship is like this little gem in the middle of America. It was one of my recent discoveries in Chicago and now I come here from time to time. I do recommend this place to everyone, it’s indeed very inspiring.

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  6. You do such a fantastic job of displaying the treasures in our city. I have lived in Tenn and Ohio and worked in number of other states, but there is nothing like sweet home Chicago in spite of the sometimes cruel winters. Keep putting our best foot forward. I enjoy reading about this things and I live here. Thanks for the like of my post “Snow Blinds”.

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  7. Hello Virginia! This post is excellent. I’m not an architect but I love architecture, so now I know what to visit if I travel to Chicago. By the way, thanks for liking my post “Door to the Past: Outside of Presidio Building”.
    Kind greetings,
    Marianne

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  10. Wonderful post Virginia. What incredible choices you’ve found. I’m always curious about Frank Lloyd Wright houses – not to live in, but to see how he used the space. The Robie House really reminds me of the Meyer May house he did in Grand Rapids, Michigan just before (or maybe simultaneously) this one. I love the Wood Pavilion – haven’t seen it yet. Hopefully soon!🙂 ~Terri

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    • Terri! Glad you liked these buildings, I had a hard time chosing which to leave aside- I love Chicago’s architecture. The wood pavilion is amazing (design+construction)! I haven’t visited the Meyer May house yet. Did you liked it? Is it hard to get there?

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  11. The Meyer May house is in the historic part of Grand Rapids, and is very easy to find. It’s surrounded by typical Victorian houses, which further demonstrates what a radical departure Wright’s designs were. At the time, I’m sure most of the neighbors thought he was a kook! ~James

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    • aaw thanks for the kinds words🙂 Chicago is one of my favourite cities in the world, I find its architecture amazing. I glad to hear that your European student liked Chicago. Did you get to see all the spots of the list?

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  14. Thanks. Delighted to have found your blog. I was constantly amazed when I visited how stunning the architecture of the city was. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (plugged in and ready to play).

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