The Beautiful Legacy of Mies Van Der Rohe and Kudos to SOAR!

I recently helped a client write an offer for a unit in 860 N. Lake Shore Drive, one of the twin, 26 story towers along the Lake just North of Chicago Avenue, one at 860 and one at 880 N. Lake Shore Drive.  They were famously designed by Mies van der Rohe and built between 1948 and 1951.  I was struck anew by the clean lines and pristine plaza connecting the two buildings, it is almost refreshingly pure to be around such simple yet elegant architecture.

The buildings were completed in the same year as the famous home Mies also designed, the celebrated Farnsworth House, shown above, and contained many elements that were repeated in the famous Seagram Building in New York, which was built seven years later. 

Being loyal to Chicago, I want to point out that the Seagram Building, above, did not necessarily advance the ideas of our Lake Shore Drive buildings!  Much of its fame comes from serving as a model for many other buildings built in Manhattan in the late Fifties and Sixties.

Mies van der Rohe began his career in Germany, but Nazi Germany rejected his style as not being monumental, or “German”, enough, as exemplified by the Reichstag, shown above.  Mies moved from Germany to America in 1937, eventually coming to our great City to be head of the architecture department at the Illinois Institute of Technology, then called the Armour Institute. 

One of his assignments was to design the buildings on the campus, which we can still see today.  The Crown Center at IIT, shown above, is considered one of his finest achievements.  His influence on other architects, both in education as well as attitude, led to a movement called the “Second School of Chicago”. 

All Chicagoans can be thankful for his legacy, from the Federal Building in the Loop, shown above, to the IIT campus on the South side to 860 and 880 Lake Shore Drive on the North side!

I also attended a recent meeting of SOAR, the Streeterville Association of Active Residents.  It was very impressive to see people taking such an active role in what happens in their community.  Regardless of whether one agrees with all of the positions taken by the group as the years have passed, their model of citizen involvement is to be admired!


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  • Melinda did you know that Mies lived for a brief time at 860 Lake Shore Dr. and moved out after numerous knocks on the door from tenants complaining about their fawcetts dripping and other various problems? True story!

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