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Chicago designers recommend underrated architectural sites to Biennial visitors

Local architects highlight underrated architectural gems for visitors coming to Chicago this year for the Biennial

Stanley Tigerman’s postmodern Self-Park Garage built in 1986.
Image courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers

Chicago is a city full of architectural wonders from every movement in the modern era. From Adler & Sullivan to Studio Gang, architecture has for decades remained one of Chicago’s most prominent exports and also one of our city’s main draws. And in anticipation of the second edition of the Chicago Architectural Biennial, which kicks off in September, the Biennial team reached out to a handful of local architects and designers participating in this year’s Biennial to discuss some of the city’s lesser recognized gems.

The list, which features picks from architects Ania Jaworska, Marshall Brown, Norman Kelley, Paul Preissner, and the two-person team behind Design with Company, highlights a mix of buildings from various periods and styles. However, structures from the postmodern era, including the Winter Garden at the Harold Washington Library as well as the Stanley Tigerman-designed Anti-Cruelty Society building and self-parking garage at 60 E. Lake Street top the list.

While parking garages aren’t typically the first structures to come to mind when considering architecturally significant buildings, the 60 E. Lake Street self-parking garage by Stanley Tigerman epitomizes the postmodern movement with its unique shapes, bright colors, and playful design. And while passersby may not immediately take notice of the form of the exterior, those who take a step back to get a good look at the building may see some aesthetic similarities to the front end of the famous Rolls-Royce luxury car.

“The upper part of the façade is a turquoise metal cladding incorporating the windows that resemble a car’s grille and headlights,” Ania Jaworska describes to the Biennial team. “The middle looks like a bumper and the base incorporates two black vinyl canopies that are reminiscent of tire treads. Signage is incorporated in the place of a license plate and wheel rims. The building is topped with a silver colored statue acting as an extravagant hood ornament."

The Winter Garden atop the Harold Washington Library in the Loop.
Flickr Creative Commons/Marcella Méfait

Other picks include the Netsch Campus at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the landmarked Overton Hygienic Building in the Douglas community, and the All Saints Episcopal Church in Ravenswood. To view the complete list and architects’ commentary on each structure, head over to the Chicago Architecture Biennial’s blog.