While traveling around the city of Chicago, I’ve seen neighborhoods with eclectic buildings, farmers markets, and beautiful established trees that make them attractive places to sketch. I could spend years capturing this city on paper and never get bored. But so far, downtown Chicago is my favorite place to draw.
The eclectic architecture south of Wacker Drive spans well over a hundred years and includes early skyscraper styles by Louis Sullivan from the late 1800s, contrasted with mid twentieth century buildings by modern architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Two of the city’s most famous buildings, the Willis Building (formerly the Sears Tower) and John Hancock Center, both designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, dominate the Chicago skyline when seen from a far.
In the mid-1980s, the Crain Communications Building, designed by Sheldon Schlegman of A. Epstein and Sons, was built. It’s commonly called the Diamond Building, and was designed to add a feminine appeal to an otherwise masculine skyline.
But it’s not just the architecture that make downtown Chicago interesting. The City has one of the best collections of outdoor sculpture in the world that includes Picasso, Chagall, and Miro. More recently, with the addition of Millennium Park to the Loop area, two new sculptures, Cloud Gate by Barcelona artist Anish Kapoor and Crown Fountain by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, add to the world class collection.
Crown Fountain is composed of two fifty-foot towers separated by a shallow granite pool, each including one entire wall of LED lights that display the animated expressions of Chicago residents. Water flows along each tower’s facing glass wall, and periodically spouts from the mouth of the displayed face. From my sketching spot, I could see both children and adults wading and splashing.
To my eye, the Crown Fountain towers appear to echo the surrounding architecture, and add a human quality to the shiny blank facades of nearby modern skyscrapers. What a treat to be able to watch the faces of people of a selection of Chicago’s residents, some of whom may even work within those buildings.