Chicago school of architecture
Chicago's architecture is famous throughout the world and one style is referred to as the Chicago School, also known as 'commercial style'. In the history of architecture, the Chicago School was a school of architects active in Chicago at the turn of the 20th century.
They were among the first to promote the new technologies of steel-frame construction in commercial buildings, and developed a spatial aesthetic which co-evolved with, and then came to influence, parallel developments in European Modernism.
While the term Chicago School is widely used to describe buildings in the city during the 1880s and 1890s, it has been disputed by scholars, in particular in reaction to Carl Condit's 1952 book The Chicago School of Architecture.
Historians such as H. Allen Brooks, Winston Weisman and Daniel Bluestone have pointed out that the phrase suggests a unified set of aesthetic or conceptual precepts, when, in fact, Chicago buildings of the era displayed a wide variety of styles and techniques.
Contemporary publications used the phrase 'Commercial Style' to describe the innovative tall buildings of the era rather than proposing any sort of unified school.
Distinguishing features of the Chicago School include the use of steel-frame buildings with masonry cladding (usually terra cotta), large plate-glass windows and limited exterior ornamentation. Sometimes elements of neoclassical architecture are used in Chicago School skyscrapers.
Many Chicago School skyscrapers contain the three parts of a classical column. The first floor functions as the base, the middle stories, usually with little ornamental detail, act as the shaft of the column, and the last floor or so represent the capital, with more ornamental detail and capped with a cornice.
The 'Chicago window' originated in the school. It is a three-part window consisting of a large fixed center panel flanked by two smaller double-hung sash windows. The arrangement of windows on the facade typically creates a grid pattern, with some projecting out from the facade forming bay windows. The Chicago window combined the functions of light-gathering and natural ventilation; a single central pane was usually fixed, while the two surrounding panes were operable. These windows were often deployed in bays, known as oriel windows, that projected out over the street.
Architects associated with the Chicago School include:
- Henry Hobson Richardson.
- Dankmar Adler.
- Daniel Burnham.
- William Holabird.
- William LeBaron Jenney.
- Martin Roche.
- John Root.
- Solon S. Beman.
- Louis Sullivan.
- Frank Lloyd Wright started in the firm of Adler and Sullivan but created his own Prairie Style of architecture.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki:
- Architectural styles.
- Art Deco.
- Art Moderne.
- Arts and craft movement.
- Beaux Arts style.
- Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise - review.
- Classical orders in architecture.
- Classical Revival style.
- Commercial style.
- Concept architectural design.
- English architectural stylistic periods.
- Form follows function.
- International Style.
- Italian Renaissance revival style.
- Polite architecture.
- Prairie School style.
- Spanish Colonial revival style.
- Tudor revival style.
- Vernacular architecture.
Featured articles and news
IHBC book review: Charles Barry’s monumental struggle to rebuild the Houses of Parliament.
Read about RSHP's British Museum extension which has been shortlisted for the 2017 Stirling Prize.
Read our introductory article to building a house extension.
More updates from DCMS about the large-scale testing of cladding systems and the number of buildings affected.
UandI secure resolution to grant planning consent for major new regeneration project.
IHBC article considers how heritage is dealt with when infrastructure schemes are authorised.
It was the tallest structure in the world for 3,800 years, but to this day the exact construction techniques are a mystery.
Shortlist for the industry's most coveted award announced.
Government responds to Mark Farmer's review of industry, rejecting the call for a levy on clients.
Peter Hansford to examine what wider lessons can be learned from the fire.
Every project is subject to uncertainty. How can construction better understand uncertainty for performance improvement?
MAD Architects reveal their designs for a futuristic campus for electric car manufacturer.
Homebuyers could borrow more with better forecasting of energy bills, according to industry consortium's new report.