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Architectural history of Illinois


Louis Henri Sullivan
Louis Henri Sullivan

The French, who established the first permanent European settlements in Illinois, build crude houses of upright logs with overhanging roofs of thatch or bark. Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, and Cahokia had a few more substantial dwellings, some made of locally quarried limestone. Most of the Americans who migrated to Illinois after the American Revolution (1775-1783) lived in log cabins, such as those in the reconstructed village of New Salem, near Petersburg. By the early 19th century, residents who could afford greater construction costs were turning to more substantial frame and brick housing, often reflecting their southern, mid-Atlantic, or New England origins. Public building styles in the first half of the 19th century featured adornments from the popular Greek Revival, Gothic, and Italianate styles.

After a great fire in October 1871, which destroyed many of Chicago’s wood buildings, the city became a leader in the development of modern American architecture (see Chicago School). The world’s first modern skyscraper, the ten-story Home Insurance Building, was completed in 1885, under the direction of engineer and architect William Le Baron Jenney. The chief pioneer of skyscraper construction, however, was Louis Henri Sullivan. His principal draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright, became the most famous American architect of the 20th century. Wright’s genius is still visible in the village of Oak Park, west of Chicago, at the Frederick C. Robie House on the University of Chicago campus, at the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, and elsewhere in Illinois. Beginning in the 1950s, the German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had a tremendous influence on the Chicago skyline, as he and other immigrant architects not only designed new structures but trained a new generation of American architects in a style that became known as European modernism.

The period from the late 1950s to the mid-1990s saw a major flowering of tall buildings in the city. Representing the Mies school are glass boxes like the Inland Steel Building and the Chicago Federal Center. The twin towered Marina City complex is an example of postmodern expressionism. The pluralism, historicism, and classicism of postmodernism find form in the State of Illinois Center. "Illinois" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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