Explore the landmarks of Ludwig Mies in Chicago
In a list of the 25 most important buildings in the postwar world, published in August by the New York Times Style Magazine, only one architect appeared twice: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the original modernist pioneer. German. Though best known for the Seagram Building in New York City, his longtime Chicago home has more Mies than anywhere else.
The largest collection of his buildings can be found on the south side, at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he headed the architectural department after leaving Germany in 1937. His characteristic aesthetic – rectangular shapes of glass and steel with skeletons on display – can be seen in the high-rise residences along Lake Michigan, from the Commonwealth Promenade Apartments in Lakeview (1959) to Hyde Park’s Promontory Apartments (1949), near a man-made peninsula with an picnic area.
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Mies’ subsequent developments, many of which were completed after his death in 1969, are concentrated in downtown Loop. The most ambitious, requiring 16 years of work, is the Chicago Federal Center, three buildings apparently carved out of obsidian. Another of its elegant black towers, on East Wacker Drive, is home to the Chicago Architecture Center, which features ever-popular exhibits, tours, and cruises. Chicago River Expeditions, also available from other tour operators, offer incredible views of dozens of iconic structures, including Mies’ 52-story AMA Plaza, which stands in stark contrast to neighboring Marina City, the whimsical residence in corn on the cob from Bertrand Goldberg. turns. Reserve a rooftop table at the LondonHouse hotel on the opposite bank for a photogenic vantage point.
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The newest addition to the skyline is the rippled blue glass facade of the St. Regis Chicago, overlooking the mouth of the river. The skyscraper is the tallest building in the world designed by a woman, the city’s Jeanne Gang, and it provides a graceful counterpoint to Mies’ rigid heaviness. Hoping that Chicago will also one day be overflowing with its work.
Flights from Columbus to Chicago
United, six a day; American, five to six a day; Southwest, two to three per day; United and American fly to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, while Southwest fly to Chicago Midway International Airport.
Travel tip: timing is everything
Check in advance with tourist attractions if they require scheduled entries, a common security policy in the COVID era.
This story is from the October 2021 issue of Columbus monthly.