June 14, 2023 | Review: Chicago Excursion

  Skyline of Chicago photographed out of a high-rise building Copyright: © Jonas Ueding  

A review by Jonas Ueding

After a three-year break, finally going on a Pentecost excursion together with students again was something very special for everyone involved – especially since the trip to Chicago, one of the most important cities in the U.S. in terms of architectural history, allowed many of us to fulfill the long-cherished dream of visiting some of the buildings of the 20th and late 19th centuries that we all know from lectures and exercises for the first time. In and around Chicago we encountered the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan and many more.

The first day of our stay in Chicago, kicked off with an extended walk through downtown. From the pioneers of steel frame high-rise construction such as the Monadnock Building to the Art Déco architecture of the Chicago Board of Trade to the International Style of the Chicago Federal Center and the postmodern Thompson Center, this provided an initial cross-sectional overview of many decades of American architectural history.

On the following day, we revisited some of the buildings we had already seen from the outside, in some cases taking guided tours to explore their interiors. For example, we took advantage of the view from the 29th floor of the Richard W. Daley Center to see the city from up above and admired the courtyard of the Rookery Building, which was redesigned by Frank Lloyd Wright.

We used the remaining three days in Chicago to take in the metropolis beyond downtown – including a guided tour by the Dean of IIT's architecture faculty around the Lake Shore Drive Apartments and, across town, through IIT's world-famous Crown Hall by Mies van der Rohe.

A full day was also devoted to visiting the Oak Park neighborhood, where Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked for several years: A tour of his Home and Studio, the imposing Unity Temple, and a walk through the streets dotted with his Prairie Houses heralded a focus on Wright's work that culminated the following day with a visit to the Robie House. In the immediate vicinity of this prime example of the Prairie Style, we were also able to explore the predominantly neo-Gothic campus of the University of Chicago, supplemented with extraordinary contemporary buildings – a stark contrast to the IIT campus we had visited earlier.

As our time in Chicago came to an end, the character of the excursion also changed from a city trip to a road trip, so that we were able to get to know the Central American landscape on the trips between the individual stops. During these days, we mainly visited works by Frank Lloyd Wright, including most notably the Taliesin residence and school of architecture near Spring Green, the A. D. German Warehouse in Richland Center, the Unitarian Meeting House and the Pew House in Madison, aswell as the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa.

With these stops, we were able to observe the development of Wright's architectural language over several decades and, finally, even had the chance to make a direct comparison with Mies van der Rohe's way of working: On the last day, the tour of Wright's Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine and Mies van der Rohe's Edith Farnsworth House in Plano formed the crowning conclusion of the excursion.



Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. Anke Naujokat
Felix Martin, M. Sc. RWTH