The Chicago That Could Have Been


We all know Chicago is one of the most architecturally interesting metropolitan cities in the U.S. – maybe even the world. But developers and architects alike face restrictions, many times not realizing amazing experimental designs.

The Atlantic outlines some of these broken dreams in a recent article. You can also see many blueprints and sketches at the Expo 72 Gallery  (72 East Randolph Street) in the Loop, where a 160-foot panorama of the Chicago skyline greets you. Download the Phantom City app and you’ll discover over 100 masterpieces.

Take the Tribune Tower, for example. Before it was built in 1923, an international competition determined the design of the building. After the winner was announced, the Chicago community was appalled because the gothic style was referencing to a time where free speech did not exist.

Alternatives included a modern glass and steel high rise with geometric balcony accents throughout and a building in the shape of a roman column.

Other projects that failed to come to fruition were because the technology for their construction didn’t exist or sometimes they were drawn as conceptual pieces.

For example, local architect Stanley Tigerman wanted to drop a building designed by Mies van der Rohe into the Michigan Lake. The famous structure, called Crown Plaza, houses the architecture department at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Tigerman wanted to critique the “state of architectural pedagogy in Chicago” according to the Art Institute in the Atlantic article.

One of the most magnificent designs displayed is Frank Lloyd Wright’s National Life Insurance Building. Aiming to build an “Architecture of Democracy,” Wright claimed that the development would be earthquake-proof and suggested the construction of the curtain walls to be pre-fabricated, which is a norm in skyscraper construction today.

The best words to describe this design are “gothic epic.” If you’re stopping by the exhibit, it’s not to be missed. The display runs until September 29.

Author: Mark Miles

Mark Miles works for Dreamtown, one of Chicago's largest real estate search firms. Editor's note: While Mark works for Dreamtown, his posts are NOT sponsored content. No money or any other compensation is exchanged for his articles.

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