The Explorographer

Chicago Illinois ~ Part IV ~ Stone vs. Glass

For all intents and purposes, this post could be called Architecture Heaven part III-B.  Honestly, if I had enough time there would not be enough letters in the alphabet to append.  This by far is not my first visit to a large city either.  I have been to NYC more times than I can count.  I say this because you may think all I did was look up at the big buildings and photograph like a newborn.  And while I was simply building crazy while in Chicago, it was with great purpose.   If you have followed my work for a while you know I am about historical preservation of old structures and re-purposing of them.  Nowhere have I been in a big city where this is more clear than in Chicago.  One of the most prominent of these older structures is iconic Wrigley building.

The Wrigley Building ~ Chicago, Ill
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Olympus/Zuiko 35-105mm ~ ISO100 ~ 35.0 mm ~ f/8 ~ 1/160

From its massive clock tower to its ornate filigree the Wrigley personifies Chicago’s love for the old architecture.  And while many of the buildings outsides and fascia have been restored, maintained, or otherwise, the internals of these buildings have been for the most part modernized were possible to make them usable for business. For instance, in 2013 The Zeller Development Corporation led a $70 million renovation of the building which included two new lobbies, new elevator cabs, restrooms, windows, HVAC, electrical, fire control and more.  Much of the restoration actually removed many of the buildings additions built over the past 90 years and brought it back to its original splendor.  And while the Wrigley stands out as a shining example, it’s the smaller less well-known buildings that drive home this philosophy of preservation over raze and rebuild.  Here is a great example of some of the smaller buildings “standing guard” at the forefront of the Chicago skyline.

Chicago Skyline
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Olympus/Zuiko 35-105mm ~ ISO100 ~ 35.0 mm ~ f/8 ~ 1/500

They are by no means the biggest/tallest buildings but many will tell you they are the most beautiful.  Many Chicago skyline guides such as this one, overlook these buildings.  To me, they are a standing tribute to those that built Chicago’s metro area.  This view of the Santa Fe / Motorola building gives testament to the simple beauty of stone-faced architecture.

Chicago Ill ~Santa Fe / Motorola building
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Olympus/Zuiko 35-105mm ~ ISO100 ~ 35.0 mm ~ f/8 ~ 1/800

Some Chicago-ites will harp on the Santa Fe sign being replaced by Motorola, and the lack of care for the old. For what, an old sign? From a defunct railroad company?   Motorola had to pay to have that sign up there and if that helps support keeping the building itself alive, what is the problem?  The building stands, and is as far as I know is being used so please, spare me.  Most everything around where I am from that is old and beautiful has been razed.  Whether by the bulldozer or the convenient arsonist, it’s gone and replaced by an ugly cinderblock box.

Now that I have placed my argument for the stone-faced giants, let’s take a look at the other side, the glass.  And new buildings are going up all the time. This is a good example, when doing research for this article, this building is so new it doesn’t appear on google maps yet.

Lake Street Chicago Ill
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Zeiss 16-35mm ZA OSS ~ ISO80 ~ 16.0 mm ~ f/8 ~ 1/320

This building is to the east of the Lake Street bridge with another brand new building going up on the west side.  There are some obvious buildings in this category such as the Sears tower and Trump tower which reach for the tallest category. For me, the unique buildings caught my eye.  An example is the Roosevelt University Wabash Tower.

Wabash Building ~ Chicago, Ill
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Olympus/Zuiko 35-105mm ~ ISO100 ~ 70.0 mm ~ f/8 ~ 1/500

32 stories of zig-zagging blue and green glass.  No matter where you go southeast of the skyline, this building does not command your attention. Speaking of unique, there is a middle ground here as well.  While doing map research for this trip I came across a building called, “Aqua” that I just had to get a shot of.

Aqua ~ Chicago, Ill
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Olympus/Zuiko 35-105mm ~ ISO125 ~ 50.0 mm ~ f/8 ~ 1/4000

As you can see I had a little fun with the sky here to bring home the feeling I got when looking at this building from the street.  Designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, this has to be my favorite building in Chicago.  Hate it or love it, you have to admit it is very unique.  Absolute proof that stone AND glass CAN get along in this beautiful architectural symphony of a city.

Chicago Skyline
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Zeiss 16-35mm ZA OSS ~ ISO100 ~ 33.0 mm ~ f/11 ~ 9 Exposure 32bit HDR
Skyline ~ Chicago
Camera: Sony a7rII ~ Lens: Olympus Zuiko 35-105mm ~ ISO100 ~ 50.0 mm ~ f/3.5 ~ 1/80 ~ 17 image panorama

I am sure many will read this and disagree with my views here and that’s okay.  I really liked Chicago and hope to get back there soon and shoot more of its amazing architecture!  Have suggestions for buildings in Chicago for me to shoot? Interiors? Exteriors?  Share them in the comments!  Stay tuned for the final entry in this five-part series, coming in a couple of days!


Explore. Photograph. Write. Repeat.

A multi-award winning travel photographer and mentor. Most known for his "abandonscape" images. Creator and curator of and

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