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Culture
 
 
 

Architecture

The outcome of the Great Chicago Fire led to the largest building boom in the history of the nation. Perhaps the most outstanding of these events was the relocation of many of the nation's most prominent architects to the city from New England for construction of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.

In 1885, the first steel-framed high-rise building rose in Chicago ushering in the skyscraper era. Today, Chicago's skyline is among the world's tallest and most dense. Downtown's historic buildings include the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the Loop, with others along the lakefront and the Chicago River. Once first on the list of largest buildings in the world and still listed 20th, the Merchandise Mart stands near the junction of the north and south river branches. Presently the four tallest in the city are the Sears Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the Aon Center (previously the Standard Oil Building), and the John Hancock Center. The city's architecture includes lakefront high-rise residential towers, low-rise structures, and single-family homes. Industrialised areas such as the Indiana border, south of Midway Airport, and the banks of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal are clustered. Future skyline plans entail the supertalls Waterview Tower, and the Chicago Spire.

The 60602 zip code was named by Forbes as the hottest zip code in the country with upscale buildings such as The Heritage at Millennium Park, leading the way for other buildings such at Waterview Tower, The Legacy and Momo. Other new skyscraper construction may be found directly south (South Loop) and north (River North) of the Loop.

Multiple kinds and scales of houses, townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings can be found in Chicago. Large swaths of Chicago's residential areas away from the lake in the so-called "bungalow belt" are characterised by bungalows built from the early 20th century through the end of World War II. Chicago is also a prominent centre of the Polish Cathedral style of church architecture. One of Chicago's suburbs is Oak Park, home to the late architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Visual Arts

Although Chicago's museums concentrate on out-of-town artists, there is a lively fine arts community. The highest concentration of contemporary art galleries can be found in the River North neighbourhood, though a great amount of arts activity also centres around the Wicker Park neighbourhood.

Chicago has long had a strong tradition of figurative surrealism, as in the works of Ivan Albright and Ed Paschke. In 1968 and 1969, members of the Chicago Imagists, such as Roger Brown, Leon Golub, Robert Lostutter, Jim Nutt, and Barbara Rossi produced bizarre representational paintings. Today Robert Guinan paints gritty realistic portraits of Chicago people which are popular in Paris, although he is little known in Chicago itself.

Chicago has a Percent for Art program of public artworks, although it is notoriously more opaque and secretive than that of most other cities; arts activist such as Paul Klein and attorney Scott Hodes have long criticised its lack of public accountability.

Chicago is home to a number of large, outdoor works by well known artists. These include the Chicago Picasso, Miró's Chicago, Flamingo by Alexander Calder, Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa, and the Four Seasons mosaic by Marc Chagall.

Performing Arts

Chicago has a major theatre scene, and is the birthplace of modern improvisational comedy. The city is home to two renowned comedy troupes: The Second City and I.O. The form itself was invented at the University of Chicago in the 1960s by an undergraduate performance group called the Compass Players, whose members went on to found Second City. It is also home to one of the longest running plays in the country – the Neo-Futurarium's Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, an ensemble of 30 plays in 60 minutes. Many world-famous actors and comedians are Chicagoans or came to study in the area, particularly at Northwestern University in Evanston.

Since its founding in 1974 as an ensemble effort, Steppenwolf Theatre Company on the city's north side has nurtured a generation of actors, directors and playwrights. It has grown into an internationally renowned company of 35 artists. Many other theatres, from nearly 100 black box performances spaces like the Strawdog Theatre Company in the Lakeview area to landmark downtown houses like the Chicago Theatre on State and Lake Streets, present a wide variety of plays and musicals, including touring shows and original works such as the premiere in December 2004 of Spamalot. The Goodman Theatre and the Victory Gardens Theatre have won regional Tony Awards, along with Steppenwolf. Broadway In Chicago, created in July 2000, hosts touring productions and Broadway musical previews at LaSalle Bank Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theatre. Broadway In Chicago provides over 7,500 jobs and an economic impact of over $635 million dollars. Polish language productions for Chicago's large Polish speaking population can be seen at the historic Gateway Theatre in Jefferson Park.


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