clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chicago vs. Los Angeles: Which city has the better architecture, public art, and parks?

New, 24 comments

The Cubs vs. Dodgers series isn't just about baseball, it's a contest between the Midwest and West Coast

If the Chicago Cubs can make it all the way this year and win a World Series, it will be the first time since 1908—ending the most famous championship drought in all of professional sports. However, to get there, the Cubs must overcome the Los Angeles Dodgers. And with both teams determined to defeat the other, there’s actually been a little rivalry brewing between the residents of LA and Chicago. Which city has better architecture, better cultural institutions, and better public spaces? Sure LA has better weather and its famous movie industry, but Chicago’s skyline is recognized around the world.

This is not only a battle between baseball teams, but between the Windy City and the City of Angels. It’s a competition between the towering skyscrapers of the Midwest versus the cultural institutions and sunny beaches of the West Coast. We’ll let you decide who the winner should be. May the best city win!

Stadium

Dodger Stadium

A midcentury modern masterpiece, Dodger Stadium, which opened in April 1962, is the third oldest stadium in the Major League, but it’s meticulously manicured and squeaky clean—and it still dazzles. The ballpark itself, with its clean lines, hexagonal scoreboards, and folded plate overhangs, is a work of art, representative of the modern architecture that has helped to define Southern California. All of the views from its 56,000 seats are unobstructed, meaning there’s not a bad seat in the house, even when the seat costs just $8. Plus, it’s home to the best-ever announcer Vin Scully and the best hot dogs in the MLB.

We should also point out that Los Angeles was home to the original Wrigley Field. LA’s Wrigley Field was, fittingly, Spanish in style, and it was named after William Wrigley, Jr. ahead of Chicago’s stadium, which was originally called Cubs Park.

Wrigley Field

Constructed in 1914, Wrigley Field is the second oldest stadium in Major League Baseball. Originally known as Weeghman Park, the stadium was renamed Wrigley Field after William Wrigley Jr. and the Wrigley Company gained control of the team in 1921. The stadium with its iconic marquee and outfield ivy is often referred to as "The Friendly Confines" by locals. In recent years, Wrigley Field has undergone numerous updates, including new bleacher seating, a new clubhouse, and new digital signage—the latter of which was the center of a highly publicized feud and legal battle between the Ricketts family and the owners of rooftop properties that surround Wrigley Field. If the Cubs win the World Series this year, it will be the first time since 1908—ending the longest championship drought in all of professional sports.

Iconic skyscraper

Willis Tower

During much of the twentieth century, Chicago was a merchant city and the biggest name in the business was Sears. In the late ‘60s, the company decided to build a new headquarters and tapped Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design what would become the tallest building in the world. Designed by Bruce Graham and Fazlur Rahman Khan, the building’s "bundled tube" design not only allowed it to reach new heights, but to also make a grand gesture in the Chicago skyline. With an official height of 1,450 feet (1,729 feet if you include its antennas), the tower held the world’s tallest title until 1998 when the Petronas Towers in Malaysia were completed.

US Bank Tower

The tallest building on the West Coast—until about six weeks ago, anyway—is strong and mighty—it was built to withstand an 8.3 magnitude earthquake. But that hasn’t mattered much to filmmakers. It’s such a standout building that director Roland Emmerich targeted it in no less than three of his blockbuster disaster films; Aliens destroyed it in Independence Day, Tornadoes swept through it in The Day After Tomorrow, and it was felled by an earthquake (presumably above 8.3) in 2012. Completed in 1989, it was designed by architect Henry N. Cobb, who outfitted the structure with its signature crown. This year, the tower unveiled a terrifying glass slide that suspends riders above the street 1,000 feet below. (Even the engineer admitted it’d be "scary as hell" to ride in an earthquake)

Famous houses

Stahl House

Between 1945 and 1966, the influential Case Study Program sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine gave LA some of its finest modernist homes. Of these, the most recognizable is likely Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House (Case Study House #22). Koenig employed a simple construction style, relying heavily on glass and steel. The L-shaped home frames a simple swimming pool with views across the LA Basin. Situated on a hillside above the Sunset Strip, the house seems almost to hover over the city below in photos taken by legendary architectural photographer Julius Shulman.

Frederick C. Robie House

Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed dozens of homes in the Chicago area, but the Robie House may be Wright’s greatest work in the Windy City. Designed and built between 1908 and 1910 for a young industrialist, the house is one of the best examples of Wright’s famous brand of Prairie School architecture. In the late 1950s, the home was threatened with demolition, but an elderly Wright returned to the house to protest the plan and to ensure that the home would be saved. Wright, who was not known to be a modest person, considered the Robie House to be one of the greatest homes ever built.

Landmark

Chicago Water Tower

The Chicago Water Tower in many ways is a reminder of Chicago’s ability to endure through difficult times. The 154-foot tall limestone structure is a physical connection to the city’s early days as it is one of the rare buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which wiped out most the city’s downtown. Today, it is surrounded by towering skyscrapers but remains a popular tourist destination and symbol of Chicago’s strength and determination.

Hollywood sign

Perhaps the most recognizable landmark this side of the Pyramids at Giza, the Hollywood Sign has come to stand in for so much—show business, fame, excess—but is locally a symbol of the city’s complicated relationship with growth and change. The sign originally read "Hollywoodland" and was merely an ostentatious billboard advertising a new subdivision during a 1920s development boom. Later, when it had become a recognizable local landmark, preservationists sought to restore and preserve the sign. And now, with tourists from around the world flocking to Beachwood Canyon to get a closer look at those giant letters, it’s apparently become the bane of local residents’ existence—some of whom have proposed dismantling the sign entirely.

Public Art

Urban Light

Added to the front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008, the beautiful collection of ornate lamp posts is already an LA icon. While the sculpture is relatively new, the lamp posts are not. All 202 of them are antiques, collected and restored by the late local artist Chris Burden, who, in 2000, scooped up his first pair for $1,600 at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. At night, when the lamps illuminate Wilshire Boulevard, it’s easy to imagine a time when they were the only objects in LA that glowed. The city’s first street lights, installed in the 1860s, were gas-powered and lit by lamp lighters on horseback.

Cloud Gate (aka "The Bean")

Designed by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate was just one of several high-profile attractions that were completed as part of the Millennium Park project. Made up of stainless steel plates, the bean-shaped sculpture is the visible center public art piece of Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park. Completed and officially opened to the public only ten years ago, Cloud Gate has since become an iconic symbol for Chicago and a popular destination for tourists.

Museums

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

It’s hard to pick just one museum (LA has heavy hitters, including The Getty Center and the newly opened Broad, and some funky, smaller institutions cherished by locals, including the Museum of Death and the Museum of Jurassic Technology), but we’re throwing it down with LACMA, the institution that was recently bequeathed the famous Sheats Goldstein residence

and brought us Urban Light and Rain Room. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, on Miracle Mile, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art holds an impressive collection of fashion and textiles, pieces by Monet and Picasso, and, right now, is exhibiting a creepy props, paintings, and sculptures owned by Guillermo del Toro. The future of LACMA is exciting, too. The Academy is building a big movie museum next-door, a subway stop is under construction nearby, and the museum itself is being totally redesigned by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor.

Art Institute of Chicago

Originally built as a structure for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Art Institute of Chicago has been a key cultural destination in the Midwest since the late 1870s. The museum’s collection features over 300,000 works ranging from prehistoric times to the contemporary period, and receives over 1.5 million visitors each year. Notable works include Nighthawks from Edward Hopper, American Gothic by Grant Wood, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso, and Paris Street;Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte. The museum’s entrance features a pair of bronze lions by sculptor Edward Kemeys, which are also another iconic symbol of Chicago’s downtown and cultural legacy.

Route 66

Beginning of Route 66

Chicago has always been a major transportation hub and remains one to this day. But before the days of interstate highway travel and cheap airline fares, if one wanted to head west, they would do so along the famous Route 66. The highway which helped kick off the motoring craze starts in the heart of downtown Chicago at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street.

End of Route 66

Route 66 isn’t the illustrious thoroughfare it once was, but it’s still possible to see remnants of the historic highway in and around today’s Los Angeles. From the ruins of roadside cafes and motels in the desert towns of the Mojave Desert, to the final stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, where the route finally reaches the sea, Southern California is still full of glorious monuments to the car culture that defined midcentury America (and kind of destroyed the environment in the process, but still).

Wrigley Field

1060 West Addison Street, , IL 60613 Visit Website