Who would have thought a cow kicking over a lantern would have major long-term effects for a huge metropolis?
I learned this recently on the Chicago Architectural Foundations’ Chicago River Boat tour.
The extremely knowledgeable guide told us that after the fire in 1871 that left a third of the residents in Chicago homeless, architects, builders and craftsmen flocked to the Windy City to rebuild. That kicked off and established the city as a major architectural destination.
I certainly saw this on the hour and a half tour of the River along with history and development of this city.
On the tour one can see many styles of architecture, reflecting the development of city. For example, there are black steel straight lined modernist buildings, structures made from glass reflecting their neighbors, post modernist and Art Deco designs. Chicago even has some Beaux Arts structures, most popular in France.
I also learned that some buildings echo designs of earlier buildings. The new Trump Tower is case in point. Its three cylinders of different heights repeat the three tall squares of the former Sears Tower, renamed the Willis Tower.
And some buildings are a little weird. For example, the Chicago Tribune building built in 1925 has an Art Deco shaft and a Gothic top. The Gothic part is inspired by a cathedral in France. Go Figure.
I also enjoyed seeing reflections of buildings. In this case, one can see the massive Merchandise Mart, built in the 1930s, reflected in the wonderful curved glass wall of the 333 West Wacker Drive across the river.
And there’s so much history and change. For example, the old Montgomery Ward building (Prairie style) has been turned into condos—called adaptive reuse in the architectural world.
Some buildings are a reaction to other styles. For example, these curved housing structures are clearly a reaction to the straight modern boxes made famous by Mies van der Rohe.
And then there are the brand new ones. Our guide explained that the Aqua at Lakeshore East is probably the most talked about building in Chicago with many opinions pro and con about the wave-like balconies.
While too far from the River to photograph, you even see the site of the famous O’Leary cow barn that started it all.