City With A View – A Look at Chicago’s Distinctive Skyline

It has been a big month for skyscrapers in the news – most notably, construction was completed on New York City’s One World Trade Center, rising to its full symbolic height of 1,776 feet (representing 1776, the year of America’s independence) with the placement of a spire atop the building. The impressive structure not only takes the title of tallest building in the Western Hemisphere – formerly held by our Willis Tower – but it also was the culminating moment of nine years of construction to fill the void of the missing World Trade Center along NYC’s skyline.

A time lapse video of One World Trade Center’s construction

Looking to our own Chicago skyline, this year marks the 40th anniversary for two of the city’s top three tallest and most distinct skyscrapers: the 108-story, 1,451-foot Willis Tower and the 83-story, 1,136-foot Aon Center. These buildings are not only home to some of Chicago’s largest and most influential businesses, but also serve as anchors of the city’s skyline.

We thought we’d celebrate these iconic structures and more with a brief look back at our skyline’s history and what’s to come.

With 26 miles of lakefront, it is no surprise that Chicago puts on a stunning display. While our city was once marred by destruction caused by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Chicago quickly worked to rebuild – leading to the largest building boom in the history of the United States.

In 1885, the steel-framed Home Insurance Building was completed and became known as the world’s first skyscraper. Although only 10 stories at the time, the building ushered in the skyscraper era in Chicago and throughout many other cities.

Today, Chicago’s skyline is among the world’s tallest, most dense and also one of the most popular. In fact, according to CNN Travel, Chicago ranked fourth in the world’s top 20 city skylines – behind only Hong Kong, New York City and Paris.

The Chicago skyline as seen from the Adler Planetarium

The Chicago skyline as seen from the Adler Planetarium

But it is also the sheer size, shape, color and variety of buildings that sets Chicago apart. Aside from the previously mentioned Willis Tower and Aon Center, other prominent structures that define the skyline include the 92-story Trump International Hotel and Tower, the vibrant red CNA Center, the diamond-shaped Crain Communications Building, and the Lake Point Tower uniquely set on Navy Pier.

And of course, as always, our city continues to grow, build, change, renovate and adapt. There is a strong pipeline of construction projects that will add to our skyline, including the 60-story $250 million skyscraper planned for 220 E. Illinois Street and the 42-story “Tower of Jewel” apartment structure planned for a site at Clark & Division.

What’s your favorite building along the Chicago skyline? Share your feedback with us in the comment section below.

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About BOMA/Chicago

The voice of Chicago's office building industry since 1902.
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