Best Architecture Firms in Chicago

Not many are aware that the ‘Windy City’ was home to the world’s first skyscraper. The devastating Great Chicago Fire of 1871, gave rise to gritty resolve among the early builders of this town. As a result, the architects & engineers of  Chicago built the Home Insurance Company Building; a taller, lighter, steel-framed building. Chicago is known the world over, for its unique architectural style. Must see architectural marvels include the Marina City, The Rookery, Tribune Tower, Sears Tower, Jeweller’s Building and Chicago Culture Centre to name a few. Architects who have made Chicago their have and continue to use the city as inspiration to build structures that make a mark. If one were to select the best architecture firms in Chicago, it would be quite a challenge. Here are the top contenders.

Studio Gang Architects        

Founded in 1997 by Jean Gang, a MacArthur Fellow; Studio Gang has built a reputation of being a maverick firm that breakthrough design. Over the years, it has become one of the best architecture firms in Chicago and has won numerous awards including the ‘Skyscraper of the Year award’, Divine Detail Award and National Design Award to name a few.

Sustainability forms a focal point of Studio Gang’s designs and the firm believes in the capability of design to connect people at a social, experiential and intellectual level. The Aqua Tower, Northerly Island, Solstice in the Park, Writer’s Theatre, National Aquarium and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership are some of the most well-known projects by the firm.

John Ronan Architects

Internationally renowned architecture firm, John Ronan Architects was founded in 1999, in Chicago. Anchored in a research-based approach to design that is complemented by a practical iterative process that tests various ideas. They have executed projects across the world in landscape design, urban design and core architecture.

Some of the well-known projects by this architecture firm include Illinois Institute of Technology Innovation Center, Poetry Foundation Headquarters, Yale Steam Laundry and Gary Comer Youth Center. Most recently, John Ronan Architects garnered attention for their colorfully built low-cost housing for seniors in Chicago. The firm has also constructed the visitor center for the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park Home and Studio.

Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM)

Founded way back in 1936, by Nathaniel Owings and Louis Skidmore, the firm is globally respected engineering and architecture firm, rooted in Chicago. As on date, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill have offices in Los Angeles, New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Dubai, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. The architecture firm in Chicago has a multi-disciplinary practice which also includes services like Urban Design, Sustainable Design, and Planning. Owing to its early existence, SOM has been one of the pioneers of sustainable design, innovation in high-rise, digital design, and the integration of art and architecture.

The firm whose robust portfolio boasts of about 10,000 projects implemented in 50 countries, has won more than 200 awards since inception. It is the only firm to have won the AIA’s Architecture Firm Award twice. Some of SOM’s most celebrated projects in recent years are the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport T2 (Mumbai), Chicago Public Library (West Loop & Chinatown Branch) and One World Trade Center (New York) to name a few.

Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB)

Solomon Cordwell Buenz, founded in 1931, has probably contributed to the Chicago skyline more than any other architectural practice. An experience that is anchored firmly in institutional and commercial design, this architecture firm in Chicago's portfolio is packed with excellent executions in the hospitality, corporate, laboratory, residential and medical space.

SCB has won multiple American Architecture Awards, AIA awards, and other awards. Running a tight operation, with American offices in Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle; SCB has concentrated its focus on design and LEED-certified executions. Some of their note-worthy recent projects are Legacy Tower, 340 on the Park, Addison Park on Clark and Richard J. Klarchek Information Commons (Loyola University).

Chicago is indeed a remarkable compendium of architectural styles, old and new. A city that seems to seems to readily play canvas to designers & architects of various schools of thoughts, it is no wonder that one comes upon hundreds of buildings, each of which has something unique to offer. And responsible for these buildings, are some of the best architecture firms in Chicago.

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