If you have ever been to Chicago you know one ‘must do’ is a river architectural tour. There are a number of organizations that organize such tours including the Architectural Foundation. However, on a recent trip to Chicago to attend a Board Meeting at the Adler School of Professional Psychology I decided to try out the privately run Shoreline Architectural Tour. While the majority of the people on the boat were more interested in seeing Chicago from the water, rather than hearing about the City`s architectural jewels, the guide or docent, as they are called, managed to appeal to both audiences.
Although I have been to Chicago on a number of prior occasions, I found the cruise surprisingly informative and enjoyable. I learned that Chicago`s planning and architectural excellence was really the result of a great fire in 1871 which destroyed most of the city. Fortunately, there was enough insurance money to allow for a comprehensive planning and re-build of the city.
Travelling along the river system, I saw a variety of old and new developments including the Merchandise Mart, the largest building in the city (although by no means the tallest); innovative housing by Bertrand Goldberg, whose early 1960`s Marina City is one of the most creative developments in the city; Aqua, the tallest building in the world designed by a female architect (as pointed out by our female docent); and the new Trump Tower complex, the second tallest building in the city.
In viewing the city from the water I could not help but notice that unlike Vancouver, the city does not have mountains to frame the views. However, in Chicago, the buildings essentially become the mountains, framing views of other buildings. The scale and density is dramatically higher than buildings in Vancouver, but it somehow all works. While many of the buildings, especially those designed and constructed in the 70`s and 80`s are quite ordinary, many of the older, and newer buildings are quite spectacular, especially when viewed from the river. Here are a few more photos.