Chicago’s Ever-evolving Skyline: When History Meets Relevancy

When a historic building is not only preserved, but enhanced to allow it to remain functional and relevant, that is when it is realizing its full potential, adding both beauty and community benefit.

One such building in Chicago is The Rookery. In “The Birth of Architecture,” Dr. Michael Masi says of it:


“The masterpiece of Burnham and Root’s career, however, is certainly the Rookery, one of the most striking and original buildings in the Chicago Loop...the building stands alone for its beauty, its harmonious combination of wrought iron and stone, and a functional practicality attested by continuous full occupancy to the present day...The skylight over the courtyard is a marvel of architectural fantasy...(Unfortunately, however, the skylight has been painted over in recent years.)...” - The Birth of Architecture, 1975


Reflecting on the beauty of the building and its continued occupancy, Dr. Masi goes on to discuss changes that have been made since the Rookery’s creation, some of which were unflattering. Yet many positive changes have been made to the building. The Rookery underwent two major renovations before 1975 (Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905 and William Drummond in 1930), but its most significant did not occur until 1992 when the skylight and Burnham Library were restored. And in 2014, the building achieved LEED Gold Certification. Still today, it is nearly fully occupied and used daily by modern office tenants who are proud of the Rookery’s heritage.

The Rookery is not alone as a pedigreed Chicago landmark that has maintained relevance in the competitive commercial office market. It is joined by theMART, formerly known as Merchandise Mart. TheMart began as a marketplace for Marshall Field & Co., then housed government offices, and later was the largest producer of trade shows in the US, and finally transitioned to highly contemporary commercial offices. The modernization of theMART began in the 1950s, continued in the 1980s, and the building received LEED for Existing Buildings Silver recognition in 2007. Its recent transformation into commercial office space for some of world’s most innovative companies - including Motorola Mobility, the Publicis Groupe, SapientRazorfish, 1871, and others - is admired throughout the industry.

When beauty and history meet function and relevance, we all benefit.