Newbie Nugget: 2 Chicago Schools

If you pay close attention to Chicago's skyline you begin to notice a few similarities among several of the buildings. The city is well known for two very important and influential schools of architecture.

Buildings now classified as the first Chicago school started to pop up in the 1880s and 1890s. Although the city has lost several of the originals of this style, there are many examples still around. For me, the most distinctive characteristic is the three part structure - or tripartite construction.

Notice in the above picture that there is a distinct base, shaft and crown to the building. Examples of the first Chicago school of architecture also have a uniformity and symmetry of design and are draped in an  abundance of fireproof terra cotta.

These iron and steel framed buildings were the world's first skyscrapers.

Federal Plaza

But by the late 1950s the second Chicago school of architecture had taken over. Most of these works were created by either Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or his legion of students at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). Though they share the characteristic of uniformity with the previous school, beyond that they look quite a bit different.

With ultra clean lines and next to no ornamentation, these structures communicate wide open space. The steel and glass frame buildings must have coined the phrase less is more. With unbelievable  attention to detail and almost neurotic precision, Miesian structures seem be a bit bland (there I said it) but this International Style has world wide appeal.

So tell me, which "school" would you rather attend?