Any architecture buff can tell you about the historical firsts for the city of Chicago. The “Chicago School” of architecture included famous buildings like the Monadnock building, one of the tallest masonry structures in the country, and the Auditorium Theater.
In the popular imagination the Sears Tower, which reigned as the tallest building in the world, and the John Hancock building, with its “X” style external beams, are iconic to the city. The Aon Building, formerly the Amoco Building, is a 90 plus story white classical tower, and the Smurfit-Stone building, with its angular (not quite matching) slanted glass roof.
In recent years, however, Chicago has been passed by other cities around the world. Dubai, famously, has the tallest building in the world under construction, and China (and Taiwan) have some of the highest and most adventuresome towers. Don’t forget Las Vegas, where the real meets the surreal, with the Paris (copy of the Eiffel Tower), the highest roller coaster in the world, and the Luxor (pyramid with spotlight).
But all is not lost… Chicago is currently undergoing a massive construction boom of tall and conspicuous buildings. In this photo you can see the moon over the cranes on Trump Tower, a 96 story concrete structure under construction (a smaller building is under construction in the foreground). From a friend’s window I can see the land being cleared for the Chicago Spire, a 150 story condominium to be marketed to the rich and famous from around the world. The Waterview Tower is an 89 story hotel for the Shangri-La with condominiums, rising on Clark Street. Each of these buildings will be a prominent addition to the Chicago skyline for years to come, whether or not they ultimately are an economic success (everyone wonders how many high-end buyers are available in Chicago to purchase these units, and the developer could end up in trouble; yet these buildings will live on in the skyline for decades to come).
If you are interested in architecture I highly recommend Emporis which is a site that shows photos of buildings under construction by city along with proposed buildings and buildings that were proposed but never built. I particularly like the buildings that never happened in River North, such as “Wolf Point”, a 142 story sky scraper proposed near the site of the current East Bank Club near Orleans Avenue.
In addition to all these buildings are myriad high rise buildings in the 20-70 story range which are being built all over Chicago. The capital that is being deployed to fund this construction is immense, and cranes are all across the skyline. As noted above, it isn’t necessarily clear that this will all end well for the developers, but as residents we will have a first class skyline for years to come (even through the inevitable recession).