Chicago-Area Architectural Gems

By Marcia Faye

From its 1895 origins as the Chicago School of Architecture of Armour Institute, IIT College of Architecture has either been associated with or has produced illustrious architects, many whom have made significant architectural contributions to Chicago.

College of Architecture faculty or alumni (or both) have served as the architects, and in most cases, the designers of the eight structures featured in this slideshow. Rather than shoot the exteriors as a standard composition, the photographer instead focused on an architectural gem—a beam, a corner, a window—that captures the structure’s uniqueness and personality.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, 1936

Alfred Caldwell (ARCH ’42, M.S. ’47), Visiting Professor

The site of the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool was part of a Victorian garden constructed in 1889. As Victorian gardens fell out of vogue, the pool deteriorated until 1936, when Alfred Caldwell redesigned it and the surrounding area to resemble a river gently coursing though a Midwestern prairie. Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, the pool is both a National Historic Landmark and a Chicago Landmark.

Photo: Steve Browne & John Verkleir

Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior

Robert F. Carr Memorial Chapel of St. Savior, 1952

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Director of the College of Architecture (1938–1958)

Located on the northeast side of IIT Main Campus, this unassuming building is Mies’ only known ecclesiastical structure. Throughout its history, Carr Memorial Chapel has been beloved by students who affectionately nicknamed it the “God box.” The Mies Society raised $1 million for a chapel restoration project that began in 2008.

Photo: Scott Benbrook

Richard J. Daley Center

Richard J. Daley Center, 1965

Jacques Calman Brownson (ARCH ’48, M.S. ’54), Faculty Member (1948–1959)

Originally named the Chicago Civic Center, the Richard J. Daley Center is one of the most notable post-World War II skyscrapers in Chicago. Chief architect Jacques Calman Brownson utilized 87-foot-wide floor trusses and an exterior cladded in COR-TEN steel, which naturally oxidizes to a rust patina.

Photo: Scott Benbrook

McCormick Place Lakeside Center

McCormick Place Lakeside Center, 1971

Gene Summers (ARCH M.S. ’51), Dean of Architecture (1989–1993)

When a fire destroyed Chicago’s McCormick Place in 1967, Gene Summers was tapped to be the chief architect in its redesign. The new facility was considered a structural accomplishment with a roof that weighs 10,000 tons, spans 19 acres, and extends 75 feet beyond its supporting columns.

Photo: Scott Benbrook

Pfanner House

Pfanner House, 2002

Zoka Zola, Part-time Professor

Architect Zoka Zola designed the house she shares with her husband, Peter Pfanner, and family, when the couple moved to Chicago from London in 1997. Located in the Ukranian Village neighborhood, the house is designed to impart a sense of openness. In 2003, Pfanner House was named Home of the Year by Architecture magazine.

Photo: Roland Halbe & Doug Fogelson / DRF

Crown Fountain in Millennium Park

Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, 2004

Ronald Krueck (ARCH ’70) and Mark Sexton (ARCH ’80)

Commissioned in 2000, the popular Crown Fountain in Millennium Park is an interactive fountain composed of two glass-brick towers and a black granite pool. The towers feature mixed-media components such as videography, spouting water, and various lighting techniques. Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is the fountain’s designer.

Photo: Scott Benbrook

Poetry Foundation

Poetry Foundation, 2011

John Ronan, Professor

The Poetry Foundation building is the first space in Chicago exclusively for the art of poetry. The building features a 30,000-volume poetry library, an exhibition gallery, and a garden-like performance area. Having attained a Silver-level certification through the U.S. Green Building Council LEED rating system, the Poetry Foundation earned John Ronan Architects an American Institute of Architects Institute National Honor Award.

Photo: Marc Teer

Louise M. Beem Early Childhood Center

Louise M. Beem Early Childhood Center, 2007

Monica Chadha, Adjunct Assistant Professor

Part of the College of DuPage in west suburban Glen Ellyn, the Louise M. Beem Early Childhood Center features colorful exterior panels, floor-to-ceiling windows facing the playground, and cozy nooks. The center’s mission is to serve both the children enrolled in its programs as well as the students who are there to fulfill academic coursework.

Photo: Marcia Faye