Windy City: the architecture of Chicago

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Chicago is America’s crossroad, successively the hub of its canal-, rail- and air-transport systems, sited by the shore of Lake Michigan within easy reach of Canada, linking the Atlantic seaboard with the Mississippi basin.  It is also the birthplace of much of what is recognisable as American architecture, because after the Great Fire of 1871 necessity brought together the group of designers, architects and engineers now known as the Chicago School, who first perfected the techniques of building high that created the skyscraper, and – fortuitously – it was the location for the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the leader if not the pioneer of the Prairie School of architects.

The Encyclopaedia of Chicago (University of Chicago Press 2004) remarks that where other great cities are distinguished by great cathedrals, royal palaces or government buildings, “Chicago’s monuments have more often than not been business buildings, houses, schools and churches”.

This lecture offers an introduction to the wealth and variety of Chicago’s architecture in and around the Loop central area, north to Graceland Cemetery, west to Oak Park and south to Hyde Park.

For background information about sites relevant to this lecture, please click here.

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