How Chicago sparked the International Style of Architecture in America

March 31, 2017 Sanjana Saluja

As modernist architects escaped the tragedies of World War II, the Windy City became the place they expanded their innovative designs. Chicago quickly became the prototypical modern city, pushing skyscrapers to record heights, while its architects perfected the finesse of the high-rise apartment, the mid-century corporate headquarters, and the government tower. Architectural Digest explores how Chicago sparked the International Style of Architecture in Chicago, Illinois.

In the 1920s and 30s a new type of architecture emerged in Germany and France. Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were designing buildings and spaces that were decidedly—and elegantly—plain. They were perfectly rectilinear and free from any and all ornamentation. They used steel and reinforced concrete: new materials. This was boldly innovative. This was the International Style. As World War II erupted in Europe, the early modernists fled to the United States. In Chicago, Mies began churning out impressive oeuvres of metal and glass in the cutting edge International Style. Here are six examples of the International Style in Chicago, Illinois.

1. Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1951)

After emigrating from Germany, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe set up shop in Chicago. His designs for two Lake Shore Drive apartment buildings were shockingly plain and featured a steel and glass exoskeleton that would define a whole generation of skyscrapers. This was the first of a kind.

Discover more examples of the International Style in Chicago, Illinois, here.

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