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The influential Architects of Chicago

<– back to CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE main page, including more information about the Chicago Architecture Center, a non-profit organization that offers tours and insight information.


In this section we’ll introduce the world-renowned architects who made Chicago’s skyline and architecture in general so famous:

  • Daniel H. Burnham 
  • Louis Sullivan 
  • Frank Lloyd Wright 
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 
  • Helmut Jahn 
  • Frank Gehry 

Find some overview information and further resources links in the following:

Daniel Hudson Burnham

Daniel Hudson Burnham was born on September 4th, 1846 in Henderson, New York. He died on June 1st, 1912 in Heidelberg, Germany.

The often cited Burnham remark: “Make no little plans” refers to his famous Chicago city plan of 1909. Burnham also lived in the 1880’s in Chicago at the address: 4300 S. Michigan Ave.

Daniel Burnham: Architect, Planner, Leader

The career of Daniel Burnham coincided with an era in which Chicago architecture evolved from small buildings with load-bearing walls to soaring steel-frame skyscrapers. It spanned a period when Chicago was the fastest-growing city in the world—so fast that many demanded a plan to manage its unplanned growth.

The 1909 Plan: his partnership with John Wellborn Root; his work with Charles Atwood, Ernest Graham and others; and the impact of the 1893 World’s Fair on his work and life.

Further resources:

Art Institute Chicago — Daniel Hudson Burnham: Daniel Hudson Burnham | The Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu)

Louis Henri Sullivan

Louis Henry Sullivan was born on September 3rd, 1856 in Boston, Massachusetts. He died on April 14th, 1924 in Chicago, Illinois.

He was known as one of the founders of ‘Modern Architecture’ and modern skyscrapers. Sullivan influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and the so-called ‘Prairie School’ architecture.

Further resources:

Art Institute Chicago — Louis Henri Sullivan: Louis H. Sullivan | The Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu)

Wikipedia: Louis Sullivan – Wikipedia

Frank Lloyd Wright: Master Architect, American Icon

Frank Lloyd Wright was born on June 8th, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He died on April 9th, 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t become one of the world’s most famous American architects overnight. He earned his stripes as a young apprentice in downtown Chicago before founding his own firm in Oak Park. His early work with Louis Sullivan inspired Wright to develop his innovative approach to organic architecture called the Prairie Style.

Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust

The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust: visit their downtown location on the ground-floor lobby of The Rookery, a National Historic Landmark on LaSalle Street in downtown Chicago.
[1886 Rookery Building, (LaSalle and Adams Streets); designed by Burnham and Root with a lobby remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright]

The Preservation Trust operates two historic house museums in the Chicago area: Wright’s Oak Park Home and Studio, and the Robie House (5757 S. Woodlawn Avenue) on the campus of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.

Further resources:

Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation (franklloydwright.org)

Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust: Architecture Tours in Chicago | Frank Lloyd Wright Trust (flwright.org)

Wikipedia: Frank Lloyd Wright – Wikipedia

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born on March 27th, 1886 in Aachen, Germany. He died on August 17th, 1969 in Chicago.

Mies van der Rohe was one of the American Modernism movements most influential personalities.

Brief Bio: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886 – 1969)
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in Aachen, Germany in 1886. As a result of time spent working under the influence of Peter Behrens, Mies developed a design approach based on advanced structural techniques and Prussian Classicism. Famous for the phrase “less is more,” he fostered a style of architecture based on material honesty and structural integrity. Over the last twenty years of his life, Mies achieved his vision of a monumental ‘skin and bone’ architecture, his later works embodying the idea of universal, simplified architecture.
His major works include amongst others: Werkbund Exposition and Apartments: Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart, Germany, 1927; H.Langer House, Krefeld, Germany, 1928; German Pavilion, Barcelona, Spain, built 1928-1929, demolished 1930; Tugendhat House, Brno, Czech Republic, 1930; Farnsworth House, Plano, Illinois, 1946-1950; Lake Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago, Illinois, 1948- 1951; Crown Hall (IIT), Chicago, Illinois, 1950-1956; Seagram Building, New York, 1954-1958; New National Gallery, Berlin, Germany, 1962-1968.

Further Resources
Mies van der Rohe Society
Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 W. 35th Street, Suite 1700, Chicago, IL 60616

Website Mies van der Rohe Society: Mies van der Rohe Society (miessociety.org)

Wikipedia: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – Wikipedia

Mies van der Rohe Foundation Barcelona

(Fundació Mies van der Rohe) The Fundació Mies van der Rohe was set up in 1983 by the Barcelona City Hall with the initial purpose of reconstructing the German Pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition.
Besides conserving and disseminating knowledge about the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, the Fundació today also fosters debate on and awareness of themes related to contemporary architecture and urban planning, as well as encouraging studies on the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and on the Modern Movement. In accordance with these objectives, the Fundació organises awards, congresses, conferences, exhibitions, workshops and installations.
Outstanding among these activities is the organisation, jointly with the European Commission, of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award, one of the most prestigious of all European architecture prizes.
(Source: Mies van der Rohe Foundation Barcelona, Spain)

Website: Fundació Mies van der Rohe – Mies van der Rohe Pavilion (miesbcn.com)

Helmut Jahn

Helmut Jahn was born January 4, 1940 in Zirndorf near Nuremberg, Germany. The German-American architect leads the architectural firm Murphy/Jahn with offices in Chicago and Berlin. Murphy died in 1985.
In 2012 Helmut Jahn renamed the firm to: JAHN

JAHN continues to be a major influencer on Chicago’s architecture, of course next to many other projects in the world.

Chicago Projects

  • Xerox Center (55 West Monroe), Chicago (1980)
  • O’Hare ‘L’ Station, O’Hare International Airport, Chicago (1984)
  • James R. Thompson Center (JRTC), Chicago (1985)
  • United Airlines Terminal 1 at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago (1987)
  • IIT Student Housing, Chicago (2003)
  • 600 North Fairbanks, Chicago (2007)
  • O’Hare International Airport Facade and Circulation, Chicago, USA (2008/2009)
  • South Campus Chiller Plant, Chicago (2009)

Some of his world-wide signature projects


  • Munich Airport Center, Germany
  • Sony Center Berlin, Germany
  • Kaufhof Galeria, Chemnitz, Germany
  • Shanghai International Expo Centre, Shanghai, China
  • Bayer AG Headquarter, Leverkusen, Germany
  • Deutsche Post Tower, Bonn, Germany


  • Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
  • 600 North Fairbanks, Chicago, USA
  • O’Hare International Airport Facade and Circulation, Chicago, USA


  • 1999k Street. Washington DC, USA
  • South Campus Chiller Plant, Chicago, USA (2009)
  • MGM Veer Towers, Las Vegas, USA (2000)

RECENT WORK can be found on the JAHN website: Work — JAHN (jahn-us.com)

Further resources

Website JAHN: JAHN (jahn-us.com)

Art Institute Chicago — Murphy / Jahn Architects: Murphy/Jahn Architects | The Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu)

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry was born on February 28th, 1929 in Toronto, Ontario.

Best known worldwide projects include: his residence in Santa Monica, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Experience Music Project in Seattle, the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, the Dancing House in Prague, the MARTa Museum in Germany, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, and 8 Spruce Street in Manhattan / New York.

In Chicago: Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge

Further resources

Gehry Partners: Gehry Partners, LLP :: Home (foga.com)

Wikipedia: Frank Gehry – Wikipedia

Art Institute Chicago — Frank Gehry: Frank O. Gehry | The Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu)

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