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Adler & Sullivan's Auditorium Theatre Dazzles The Senses

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As part of our Open House Chicago 2012 blitzkrieg, we hit up the Auditorium Building on Congress and Wabash. Designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, its top-tier status in the pantheon of Chicago architecture is unquestioned. The imposing masonry structure was the largest building in the world and the tallest in the Chicago at the time of its completion in 1889. Over time, the massive weight of the building has caused the foundation to sink some 29 inches, conjuring up a slight sense of vertigo as we walked the uneven floors. Its Romanesque design, which eschews external ornament, was inspired by H. H. Richardson's Marshall Field Wholesale Store. Home to Roosevelt University since 1946, the landmark building's greatest treasure is a 4,300-seat theater known as the Auditorium Theatre, which the folks at OHC were kind enough to let us tour.

Inside, the acoustically-perfect auditorium features series of grand arches and plaster reliefs sheathed in gold leaf. Intended as a venue for the masses, higher-priced box seas were not included in the original design. But Alder and Sullivan begrudgingly agreed to add them, intentionally giving them the theater's worst sightlines. Originally home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the theater fell into decline after the Civic Opera Building, (another stop on our tour) was completed in 1929, eventually closing its doors when the Depression hit. But unlike many other historic theaters, its ending was a happy one thanks to a 1967 renovation that brought its old swagger back. It continues to host performances today, including the Bolshoi Ballet, and counts Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Aretha Franklin, and Elton John among its list of past performers. Enjoy the pics!
·Auditorium Theatre [Open House Chicago]
·Open House Chicago 2012 [Curbed Chicago]