5 Famous Architects That Influenced Chicago’s Architecture The Most

Famous Architects That Influenced Chicago's Architecture The Most

The great Chicago fire of 1871 was a blessing in disguise for its residents, stakeholders and most of the famous architects at the time who were called upon to rebuild the city. The fire created a blank slate which was an opportunity for Chicago’s leadership to redesign the modern city. The city planners corrected mistakes that were seen in the previous city plans and used the latest architectural designs to showcase the civic pride of Chicago natives.

Additionally, the lack of space in downtown Chicago led to the creation of skyscrapers. As a result, Chicago’s architecture set the pace for modern buildings and this article will give a brief introduction to 5 famous architects that most influenced the city’s design.

William Le Baron Jenney – The Father Of Famous Architects

Architects call Jenney the father of the skyscraper as he designed the first-ever skyscraper. This was the Home Insurance Building – a 10-story structure that Jenney completed in 1885. It was the first building to use steel instead of cast iron and heavy masonry in its structural frame. Previously when designing taller structures architects had to design buildings with very strong foundations and thick walls in the lower floors which could support the weight of upper floors. This resulted in shorter and heavier buildings. Usage of steel significantly cut the weight of buildings allowing for the construction of taller buildings with thinner walls and allowance for larger windows.  

Louis Sullivan

Mr. Sullivan popularised the ‘Commercial Style’ or the ‘Chicago School’, which is a style of building vertical skyscrapers. He was a beloved mentor to another famous architect called Frank Lloyd Wright while he himself worked under William Jenney for a year. Sullivan was most productive after forming a partnership with Dankmar Adler in 1880. Together they designed numerous commercial buildings of the commercial style.   

Sullivan popularised the phrase and concept of ‘form follows function’. Consequently, his buildings were very functional, and the designs drew the eye upward in a vertical line. He stuck to the ethos of Roman Architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio that buildings must be strong, useful and beautiful.  Sullivan also enjoyed using semi-circular arches by placing them at building entrances, windows and in his interior designs.

5 Famous Architects That Influenced Chicago's Architecture The Most
5 Famous Architects That Influenced Chicago’s Architecture The Most

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright was mostly known for residential architecture the best of which is Fallingwater, an award-winning house designed for the owners of Kaufmanns Department Store. He is regarded as the leader of the Prairie School of Architecture which is an architecture style for houses with flat roofs, overhanging eaves, and assimilation with the environment.

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe

He was a German architect that migrated to America during the Nazi Regime. He is mostly known for designs that were very simple and minimalist. Additionally, he popularised the phrases ‘less is more’ and ‘God is in the details’. This famous architect headed the Illinois Institute of Technology Modern and also designed modern furniture.

5 Famous Architects That Influenced Chicago's Architecture The Most
5 Famous Architects That Influenced Chicago’s Architecture The Most

Daniel Burnham – One Of The Most Famous Architects

Daniel Burnham was a talented city planner and architect. He and his partner John Root built many of the first skyscrapers including the Montauk Building and the Masonic Temple Building. Burnham also apprenticed under famous architect William Jenney. He is famous for directing the design and construction of Worlds Columbian City or White city – at the time the biggest world’s fair to ever take place. His city plan of Chicago set the standard for urban city design. His architectural firm became the worlds largest by the time he died.  

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