That is the story of Chicago and of Chicago architecture: elevating the pragmatic into the artistic. That’s what Chicago architects are so skilled at doing.— Blair Kamin, architecture writer
Geoffrey Baer visits the Rookery with architecture critic Blair Kamin.
The Rookery looks massive and heavy on the outside with its red brick, stone, and terracotta façade. But the interior “light court” creates an airiness inside this 1888 Burnham and Root creation. When Burnham and Root designed the office building, they wanted to bring more air and light into the building to make those spaces desirable at a time when there was no air conditioning and electricity was still primitive. Architecture writer Blair Kamin told Geoffrey Baer that the architects elevated those practical needs into something beautiful. An iron staircase projects into the light court, which features a glass ceiling, decorative urns on the staircase, and bright white marble adorned with gold ornamentation. In 1907, Frank Lloyd Wright completed a redesign of the light court. According to Kamin, Wright honored Burnham and Root’s original design while simplifying it, making it more geometric and bringing out more lightness in the space. “It connects to the past and yet it also anticipates the future,” Kamin said.