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Top Ten Tallest Buildings in Chicago 

Here are the top ten tallest buildings in Chicago - real skyscrapers! The third largest American city, Chicago is an open air museum of modern architecture and . The historical event that influenced the most the way Windy City looks at present was the Great Fire of 1871. An incredible disaster that turned into ashes the entire town, the Great Fire paradoxically had a series of positive consequences.  When the city’s reconstruction began, leading architects from all around the world came to Chicago, attracted by the climate of artistic freedom the city featured at that time. Almost everything was then allowed: any architectural experiments, any shape, any style… This is when some of the Chicago skyscrapers appeared and when Windy City became an important center of modern architecture.

Scroll down to see a map that will help you locate the top ten tallest buildings in Chicago. Luckily, they are all located in Downtown, so you can see them all in one day!


See also Famous Chicago Buildings


1. Willis Tower

Willis Tower Chicago

Address: 233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL, United States

website

Height: 1,451 ft (442), Floors: 108, Year Built: 1973

Review: Best known by its former name (Sears Towers, this is without doubt the tallest building in Chicago and used to be the highest on Earth. With its 442 meters (1.451 feet) of height and 108 floors, Willis Tower had worldwide supremacy back in 1973, when it was erected, and continued to hold this status for 25 years. In 1998, it lost its “roof of the world” title to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Rising to 451.9 meters, the latter surpass Willis Tower by only 0.1 meters. However, Willis Tower remains to this day the highest skyscraper in the States and on the American continent. It even nibbled a few extra meters in 1982 and 2000, when two antennas were added to the structure.

Chicago’s iconic skyscrapers are usually named after the biggest company taking residence among their walls or after the company that pays the fee to put its name on the building. Thus, the tallest building in Chicago was initially baptized Sears Tower, after the famous department store. Fifteen years later, Sears Tower became Willis Tower when Willis (an insurance company whose headquarters are in London) moved in, occupying a total of 13.000 square meters on three floors. However, the building’s name remains a controversial topic, and you might still hear the locals talking about Sears Tower.


2. Trump International Hotel & Tower

 Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago

Address: 401 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL, United States

Height: 1,389 (423) Floors: 93, Year Built: 2009

Review:Rising to 423 meters, Trump International Hotel & Tower is one of the most recently erected giants in Windy City’s downtown. This 98 floors structure built in 2009 is the second tallest building in Chicago and one of the top 10 highest freestanding edifices in the whole world. The building bears the name of the worldwide famous billionaire Donald Trump who initially wanted Trump Tower to be the tallest building in the world, but changed his mind after September 11th 2001.

With a number of 486 condos among its glass walls, Trump International Hotel & Tower can be considered a residential building. However, inside this building you can also find a luxury hotel with 340 rooms. The 16th floor is occupied by a fancy restaurant called Sixteen, that serves refined dishes prepared by its Michelin chef in its Swarovski crystal chandeliers decorated kitchen. Located on Chicago River’s banks, Trump Tower offers magnificent views over Lake Michigan to the building’s residents, to the hotel’s guests as well as to those visiting the Sixteen restaurant.

© Andreykr | Dreamstime.com

3. Aon Center

Aon Center Chicago

Address: 200 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL, United States

Architects / firms:  Edward Durell Stone, Perkins and Will

Height: 1,136 (346) Floors: 83 Year Built: 1974

Review: Another tower that temporarily held number one position as the tallest building in Chicago and in the whole world, Aon Center was initially known as Standard Oil Building and later on as Amoco Building, in accordance with the edifice’s main corporate resident. Although Aon Corporation officially moved into the building only in 2011, the tower received its current name two years earlier. Meant to be an architectural wonder, Aon Center Chicago features a very thin Italian marble façade. Only a few years after, Amoco Company found itself in the situation of investing more than half of the building’s initial cost in a thorough renovation project that would prevent Aon Tower’s façade from cracking and falling off. Nowadays, Aon Center is the third tallest building in Chicago and one of Windy City’s iconic architectural landmarks. Its top is illuminated in colors that match the time of the year or a specific holiday.


4. John Hancock Center

John Hancock Center Chicago

Address: 875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL, United States

Architects / Firms: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill

Height: 1,127 (344) Floors: 100 , Year Built:1969

Review: The fourth tallest building in Chicago and one of the six highest skyscrapers in the world, John Hancock Center has a long and controversial history. The project was initiated by Jerry Wolman (a Washington D.C. based real estate businessman) in 1964, but the construction process was interrupted three years later because of a civil engineering oversight in the buildings’ plans. John Hancock took over the entire project when the initial owner was faced with bankruptcy. Hancock decided to continue along the same lines and used the same team for the project’s second phase. With its 94 floors, John Hancock Center is every year the venue of a stair climb race known as the “Hustle up the Hancock” competition and whose current record of 9 minutes 30 seconds was not broken since 2007.

John Hancock Center is made up of three parts: a residential one, among whose tenants there were many famous names along the years (including television star Jerry Springer), a business one, where two television stations found their headquarters and an upper one. The tower’s last three floors represent a major tourist attraction in Chicago. The 94th floor is home to John Hancock Observatory that offers a 360 degrees view over some of Chicago’s legendary skyscrapers and the shores of Lake Michigan. On a clear day you can get a glance over 130 miles and four American states. On the 95th and 96th floors of the fourth tallest building in Chicago you will find a restaurant and bar, the highest in the world, serving a variety of specialty cocktails and fine dining with a breathtaking setting.


5. Franklin Center North Tower

Franklin Center North Tower Chicago

Address: 227 West Monroe Street Chicago, Illinois

Height: 1,007 (307) Floors: 61 Year Built: 1989

Review: Situated in Windy City’s Loop area, Franklin Center North Tower is the fifth tallest building in Chicago. It was erected in 1989, and in 1992 it was followed by another tower (that constitutes the second half of Franklin Center) located in 222 West Adams Street. The building’s 60 floors are disposed in a pyramidal shape, the ground surface gradually going down from more than 3300 square meters for its first 15 floors to a bit over 2000 for its upper floors. In accordance with the building’s shape, the granite covering the façade goes from a dark red at the tower’s base, to much lighter shades at its the top. An architectural jewel iconic for the postmodernist Chicago style, Franklin Center North Tower impresses by the Gothic decorative elements of its façade as well as for its bold verticality.

Photo by Ken Lund


6. Two Prudential Plaza

Two Prudential Plaza Chicago building

Address: 180 N. Stetson Av. Chicago, Illinois

Height: 995 (303) Floors: 64, Year Built: 1990

Review: Another sturdy building reaching up to the sky, the award winning Two Prudential Plaza is the sixth tallest building in Chicago at this moment. Standing next to its much shorter sister One Prudential Plaza, it seems to be trying to equal the impressive Aon Center that rises on its side. Its architecture matches the postmodernist Chicago style of the 90s. Although there are only a few angles that allow you to admire this architectural jewel, once you found one of them you will notice that Two Prudential Plaza impresses by its shaft shaped verticality. The façade features three setbacks oriented towards the diamond shaped top. Two Prudential Plaza is home to some cultural centers, foreign consulates as well as a number of radio stations.

Photo by Christofer 2272


7. 311 South Wacker Drive

311 South Wacker Drive Chicago

Address: 311 South Wacker Drive

website

Height: 961 (293) Floors: 65 , Year Built: 1990

Review:The seventh tallest building in Chicago, 311 South Wacker Drive may look incredibly small when admired from Lake Michigan, especially if you compare it to its grandiose neighbor Willis Tower. However, this impressive postmodernist concrete edifice holds a number of records. It used to be the highest reaching concrete structure on Earth and currently it is the tallest building that goes by the name of its street address. At present it is also the most visible tower at night time within Windy City’s borders, and this is due to the tubular illumination system installed on its roof. Moreover, these fluorescent cylindrical bulbs change their colors depending on the time of the year.

Photo by lawrence's lenses


8. 900 North Michigan

900 North Michigan Chicago

Address: 900 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, Illinois, United States

Height: 871 (266) Floors: 66, Year Built: 1989

Review:Another Chicago skyscraper known by its street address, 900 North Michigan with its 66 floors is home to a luxurious shopping mall, to the Four Seasons hotel, to offices and condo units, as well as to an exclusivist medical clinic and to a sizeable parking. The eight tallest building in Chicago, 900 North Michigan impresses by its limestone and light reflecting glass façade. Although behind other high structures when seen from the Lake Michigan, 900 North Michigan can be spotted at night time due to its top lanterns whose light changes its color for the holidays season.

Photo by Shane Zurbrigg


9. Water Tower Place

Water Tower Place Chicago

Address: 835 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60611

Architects / Firms:  Edward D. Dart

Height: 859 (262) Floors: 74 , Year Built: 1976

Review: Home to luxury apartments, hotel rooms, offices and a very popular shopping mall, the ninth tallest building in Chicago - Water Tower Place stands right in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, whose evolution it impacted significantly. Prior to the skyscraper’s construction Magnificent Mile was reserved to luxury brands, and totally inaccessible for mass retailers like Macy’s, American Eagle Outfitters or Sephora. With Water Tower Place it was for the first time Magnificent Mile had a vertical shopping center. Although the general public penetrated Magnificent Mile once this enormous shopping mall was built, the residential area surrounding it remained as exclusivist as before.

The ninth tallest building in Chicago, Water Tower Place bears the name of an important historical landmark in Chicago in whose vicinity it is situated. Erected a century after Chicago’s Water Tower (Windy City’s former water pumping station that now houses a visitation center and a photo gallery), this skyscraper succeeded to integrate instantly into modern Chicago’s landscape.


10. Aqua Tower

Aqua Building Chicago

Address: 225 N. Columbus Drive Chicago

Architects / Firms: Jeanne Gang

Height: 859 (262) Floors: 82 Year Built: 2009

Review: Aqua Tower with its elegant and undulating silhouette is not only the tenth tallest building in Chicago, but the highest reaching structure on Earth to have been designed by a woman architect. Who would believe when faced with such an architectural wonder that it was, in fact, the first time that Jeanne Gang tried her hands at a skyscraper project? The undulating white slabs that decorate the building’s façade providing it with a wavy aspect are not there solely for adornment purposes. They are actually an ingenious solution the architect came up with so that Aqua Tower’s residents can benefit from the view over Lake Michigan and Chicago skyline otherwise hindered by the neighboring skyscrapers.

This Art Nouveau tower inaugurated in 2009 has recently gained a new tenant – as Radisson Blu, the worldwide famous hotels chain decided to open their first American outlet in the tenth tallest building in Chicago - Aqua Tower. This hotel now occupies 18 floors, and the guests of its 334 rooms can benefit from all the amenities Aqua Tower has. These include a roof top terrace featuring landscaped gardens, swimming pools, Jacuzzi and a jogging track.

© Radomír Režný | Dreamstime.com

Map of The Tallest Buildings in Chicago

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