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Top 6 Famous Architectural Buildings in Chicago

Written by:
Jack Peterson
Pedro Lastra

Chicago, a city famous for its architectural grandeurs and ranked as the third largest city in the States, is strategically located in the Midwest. It offers picturesque views of the famous Chicago River.

Chicago is considered to be the epitome of American architecture due to its mix of diverse history. It houses the most antique and first-of-its-kind landmarks like "The Rookery" and the uniquely designed ultra-modern skyscraper "Aqua Tower".

This city offers a great deal to those who are into architecture, but it can also be a dream travel destination. Whether you are a local or a tourist, architectural icons like Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, TheMART, Marina City, and others are a must-visit. With the help of Cam Dowski, a real estate expert, here’s a list of the top 6 buildings in Chicago.

The Rookery

Considered to be one of the most significant landmarks historically and economically, aka "Chicago's beloved icon" is located in the heart of Chicago's Financial District. It made its place in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was selected as Chicago Landmark in 1972.

It has always been a prestigious business hub that has seen great progress and success in its history. Officially completed in 1888, its impressive masonry and skeletal architecture has survived the test of time. The intricate detailing on its facade adds to its style. Due to these qualities, this icon is regarded as an architectural masterpiece worldwide.

The 55-meter 12-storeyed tall building meets all the current standards of luxury and ambiance. It features a rooftop garden and an open-to-sky courtyard with natural lighting and cross ventilation. The creatively designed spaces and efficient floorplans attract corporate businesses. The great re-designed picturesque oriel staircase adds to the beauty of the courtyard. Prominent location, unique amenities, and historic identity make this historic, luxurious icon a class of its own.

Wrigley Building

Wrigley building is one of the most featured buildings in Chicago. This building is an inspiration of Spanish colonial architecture and the French Renaissance. This building broke the ground back in 1920 as this was the first major office-based building in the north of Chicago River Back.

It was named after the owner of a chewing gum company, William Mills Wrigley Jr. He used this land as his company's headquarters. The 130 meters tall building consists of two detailed towers connected by a bridge, giving you a gigantic view.

The south tower is crowned by a big four-sided clock facing 19 feet in diameter, giving it a royal impression. A steel framing strengthens this aesthetic building. Wrigley building has an alluring sight in the evening as it is magnificently lit, elevating its marvelous architecture. The scenic riverside location, bars, wineries, coffee shops, conference rooms, office spaces, gym, and restaurants make it a one-stop location for all business traits.

Aqua Tower

This 82-storeyed 261.8-meter tall building pushed architectural boundaries to a new level. It is located near the shore of Michigan Lake. This building gives you a combination of skyscrapers and a sculpture. The sculptural design creates an illusion of waves in the ocean, thus the name. Its eccentric architectural design attracts many tourists to visit this iconic building. It is charming for those who work and live here.

Its quirky style makes it different from all other buildings in Chicago. If you look closely at the design, you will notice each balcony has its unique precise shape and structure. Heat resistance and a full rainwater storage system are a plus. The tallest woman-designed building in the world of its time was awarded the Skyscraper of the Year in 2009.

A full GPS coordination system tracked this building to ensure its detailed view. Tinted glass and white concrete curved balconies give you the best close-up view of the waves. Another augmented trait of the building is a lush green rooftop with a garden, running track, outdoor pool, and fire pits.

875 North Michigan Ave

Formerly known as John Hancock Center is an iconic personification of late 20th-century Chicago architecture. Its dark appearance gives it a subtle outlook with an elegant yet modern architectural feel. From an aerial POV, its distinctive design and color scheme sets it apart from all the other skyscrapers in its vicinity.

The supertall 457-meter 100-storeyed skyscraper is currently the fifth-tallest building in Chicago. The gigantic antennas and the observatory (360 Chicago) offer a 360-degree breathtaking view of the city up to 80 miles, which are its massive highlights. The tower’s tapered shape was designed considering the floor space requirements as we move upwards.

The tubular steel frame is enforced by cross braces that strengthen the columns for structural integrity. These diagonal reinforcements add to the aesthetics of the building.

Houses spacious office spaces and business centers to restaurants, hotels, and many other amenities on the lower floors, and residential apartments and penthouses on the top floors keep the noise nuisance away.

Marina City

Marina City, referred to as “An experiment in urban living” by the Chicago architecture center, is a true depiction of what this project aimed at and was a wild success. With the vision of creating a city within a city where Chicagoans could live and play close to work at their convenience.

The complex consists of 170-meter 65-storeyed twin apartment towers that have taken the architectural design inspiration from the petals of a sunflower. The reinforced concrete central core structure speaks for its strong central core.

This complex is a dwelling place with several amenities like a cinema, swimming pools, cafes, restaurants, driveways, and others that offer many recreational opportunities apart from the busy office life.


TheMART, formerly The Merchandise Mart, began as a warehouse store and is now the largest commercial hub in the United States. This building covers the area of two city blocks comprised of 25 stories. As per the average business days, 30,000 people visit it daily. The exterior of this massive building is a seamless expression of form and structure. 

Despite its historic architecture, TheMART meets all the modern standards and has also been awarded Gold LEED certified building. The intricate use of terracotta and bronze is still modern to age and appealing to the eyes. The Mart is entitled "Chicago's Home of Inspiration." It encompasses many creative and technically evolved companies like MOTOROLA. This landmark serves as a one-stop place for all businesses.

It offers office leasing with a modern interior, natural light, and mesmerizing river scenes. The Mart has made history with the "Art on The Mart" launch, one of the world's largest digital art projections. TheMART is the most prestige design center with more than 250 top-tier showrooms offering commercial and residential market resources.


This city is packed with iconic landmarks. This blog mentions the top 6 most famous architectural sites, from The Rookery to TheMart. One notable thing about Chicago's architecture is its aesthetic sense that adds value to the city.

Chicago's architecture is built to last because of its strong foundation. For those who praise architecture, Chicago is heaven to them. We hope this blog is informative enough for all architecture lovers. If you want to add more, feel free to share your knowledge with others.

By Liliana Alvarez

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