There may be other cities top-of-mind when people think of great destinations for architecture, art and design, but those that know, know that Chicago is a spectacular destination to take in all three. With The Chicago Architecture Biennial that kicked off in mid-September, we think it’s the perfect time to highlight some of our must-sees around the city, from renowned architecture and museums to the impressive outdoor public art displays from modern masters.
Architecture: Modern Masters, World Records and a Boatload of History
- Right in the middle of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus sits Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall. Considered a masterpiece of minimalism and openness, it’s one of the most architecturally significant buildings of the 20th century Modernist movement.
- Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright spent the first 20 years of his career in Chicago. The city and its surrounding areas boast some of his most celebrated creations, including the Frederick C. Robie House, The Rookery Wright’s Home and Studio and Unity Temple. A selection of tours including The Chicago Biennial Tour and Wright Around Chicago are available.
- Seeking a moment of quiet reflection? The stunning Bahá’í Temple, with its elaborate dome and intricate carvings, is surrounded by peaceful gardens and fountains. The temple is a quick jaunt just north of the city, in the village of Wilmette. It’s one of only eight dedicated temples of the Bahá’í Faith and is the oldest Bahá’í House of Worship in the world.
- The Kimpton Gray Hotel, centrally located in the Loop neighborhood, is housed in the historic New York Life Insurance Building. Incorporating modern design elements, the hotel is the stylish marriage of past and present.
- If you can’t settle on a single landmark, check out the infamous architecture-centric river cruises.
Museums & Galleries: Art & Design with Multicultural Influence
Eclectic collections and exhibitions across the city mean there’s something for every type of art enthusiast to love.
- Though it was originally founded as a pop-up museum in 2012, there was a powerful demand for a museum in the city devoted explicitly to design, so the Chicago Design Museum is now a permanent fixture. Currently under construction, the museum re-opens with its next exhibition, HEY! PLAY! Games in Modern Culture! On October 20th.
- A gallery crawl in the River North Gallery District is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Considered the densest gallery center in the city, it’s an embarrassment of riches for all types of art from painting and photography to textiles, furniture and glass.
- The Art Institute of Chicago is a gorgeous Beaux-Arts building that was built in 1893 for the World’s Fair. Inside, it features a diverse and engaging collection. Its famed modern art collection includes masterpieces like Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.
Public Art: A Picasso, A Mosaic and Larger-Than-Life Sculptures
With more than 500 works exhibited across the city, Chicago’s public art program is seriously inspiring. The Loop neighborhood alone is home to a wealth of acclaimed pieces.
- The untitled sculpture by Pablo Picasso, fittingly called The Picasso, can be viewed and even climbed on, in Daley Plaza. Picasso was offered $100,000 for the sculpture but actually refused the payment and instead offered it as a gift to the city.
- Just around the corner from The Picasso sits Joan Miro’s Miro’s Chicago originally called The Sun, the Moon and One Star. At 39 feet tall, this mixed media sculpture towers over Brunswick Plaza.
- The Four Seasons mosaic by famed Modernist Marc Chagall can be seen in the Chase Tower Plaza. It’s comprised of thousands of fragments and features 250 different colors.
- The Agora installation by Magdalena Abakanowicz consists of 106 headless and armless iron sculpted figures on the south end of Grant Park. The statues are assembled to look like a crowd, some standing and some walking in different directions. Visitors can walk amongst the statues for a truly immersive experience.
Where to stay: Whatever your interest in art, architecture and design, there’s no shortage of gems to discover. Stay close to the sights at one of Kimpton’s four boutique hotels in Chicago.