Thursday Doors – Chicago Walking Tour

OK, there’s no door, but there are reflections and lamps (for Joey).

When I went to visit my friend in Chicago, he had suggested that we take one of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) walking tours. He invited me to choose the tour I wanted to go on, but given the timing of my flights, there really were only two choices – Chicago Modern and the River Cruise. Chicago Modern wasn’t the kind of architecture either of us is drawn to, but it was a walking tour, and we both enjoy walking. A compromise was reached that fell somewhere between unlikely and absurd – we would go on the walking tour, then stop for a beer, and then, if we felt like it, take an evening cruise. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the place we stopped for a beer had over 100 beers on tap.

According to CAF’s website:

Chicago Modern

Iconic modern and contemporary skyscrapers, as well as works by world-renowned artists, are featured on this 90-minute walking tour. Chicago was at the forefront of Modernism, the style that revolutionized our visual world during the mid-20th century…

Modernism…imagine the sigh in my voice as I say that. I describe Modernism as the “what were we thinking?” phase of architecture. The function beats form the way bland paper covers an interesting rock phase. The phase in which someone realized that humans just need to go to a place that will keep them dry, somewhat warm, and where they can work without their papers blowing around. No need to enjoy going to work. “No need for beauty in your day – you have work to do.”

Sorry for being a little harsh. In fact, one of the hallmarks the modern building movement in Chicago was the mandated inclusion of public art. So, even though you’re going to work in a huge, bland, pug-ugly box of steel and glass, you’ll pass a beautiful piece of art on the way in. I knew about the public art thing, albeit from an unlikely source. If you recall, near the end of the epic chase in The Blues Brothers, we have this bit of dialog:

Elwood: This is definitely Lower Wacker Drive! If my estimations are correct, we should be very close to the Honorable Richard J. Daley Plaza!

Jake: That’s where they got that Picasso.

Elwood: Yep.

And, it’s fitting that Elwood called attention to the Richard J. Daley Plaza, because Mayor Daley was an instrumental force in the modern architecture boom in Chicago. Again, according to CAF’s website:

Richard J. Daley didn’t much care for modernist architecture. But his personal preference for classical design didn’t deter him from championing the development of sleek, steel-and-glass buildings like the Chicago Civic Center, the Sears Tower, the Inland Steel Building, and the Federal Plaza complex.

Richard Daley wanted to showcase Chicago as a modern city, to help it grow and prosper. I’m not sure it’s the only reason, but Chicago certainly did grow and prosper. And, from my one-day visit, today, it’s one of the most active cities I’ve seen. On a cold, almost-rainy Saturday, the city was alive with people, and the skyline was dotted with residential towers and commercial buildings under construction.

Speaking of a man with control over his empire, this is supposed to be a post about doors. From his desk in the frozen wilderness near Montreal, Canada, Norm Frampton wields his power over the landscape of doors and door aficionados. Norm summons his followers to bring forth new doors, old doors, historic doors, crazy doors, colorful doors, remnants of doors and metaphorical doors in the form of gates, portals and openings. To see this vast collection, visit Norm’s site. Near the bottom of his doors, you will find the docent of your (virtual) walking tour – Mr. Blue Frog. Click on him and prepare to be amazed.

To be honest, I didn’t find many interesting doors on our walking tour. Fortunately, there are some, but even more fortunate was seeing the older, classical buildings that were pointed out in contrast to the modern subjects of our tour. Along with the beautiful art work, the juxtaposition of old and new, short and tall, absorbing and reflective all team up to make a beautiful city. I look forward to visiting again, perhaps with enough time in the city to take the: Historic Treasures of Culture and Commerce tour.

I’ve put as much as I can remember from the tour in the captions of the photos in the gallery. If you have time, click on any photo to start a show. If not, enjoy the collage, but thanks for stopping by today.


  1. I describe Modernism as the “what were we thinking?” phase of architecture.

    Well said. Your photos remind me of the architectural diversity that is Chicago. And how gray it can be there, too. Nice collage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I find revolving doors both interesting and intimidating….always afraid I’m gonna get ‘stuck’ in them! I’ve never been to Chicago, so I appreciate the tour. These modern buildings have a lot of fascinating features, but they don’t look welcoming to me. I do think The Four Seasons mosaic is neat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ginger. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. I do like the look of a lot of buildings, and I love reflections, but I prefer seeing the older buildings. The public artwork is a very nice touch.


  3. I heard that sigh in your voice….. Do you know anything about the quote above the revolving doors? I remember loving to keep on revolving in those things. Always reminded me of Chevy Chase driving around that circle in England–“Big Ben, again.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Chicago is my favourite US city. My children’s interest in the city was sparked by the cartoon city, Seecago, with Sharky and George, detectives of the sea. Sharky wore a fedora in front of his fin. It was a French Canadian production from the early 1990s, reminiscent of 1930s Chicago. Great photographs, Dan. Comme d’habitude.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Dan. I have to agree about modern architecture… But I love the first (featured) photo. It actually does have a door (sort of) — the reflection of the other building — the photo is a door to the imagination. :)
    Regardless of the buildings or lack of doors, the walking tour sounds like a lovely way to spend an afternoon with a friend. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a very nice interpretation of “door” Teagan, but I like it. I often include pictures where I think “there has to be a door in there, somewhere.” but yours is better.

      I love to walk around cities that are new to me, especially with someone who knows what I’m looking at.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love revolving doors, too, Dan. Chicago is an interesting mixture of old, classical buildings and modern edifices. If you ever get back, take the river architecture tour. It’s wonderful! I’ll have to talk one of the walking tours when it warms up.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. I would love to take the river tour. It was a little ocld that night, even though we were pouring in anti-freeze, but the tie got away from us. I will be back. I know the CAS is moving. I wonder if that means they will have different tours.


    • I’m sure there’s a developer somewhere who looks at that sculpture as totally wasted space, but it really does make the area look much more interesting and open. Thanks for the comment Jean.


  7. Any post you can illustrate with The Blues Brothers is a great post. And that Steel Building certainly is a steel building, isn’t it? Thanks for the tour, and the older, more decorative buildings for contrast. Yeah, “No decorative elements for you!” I think we need an app that overlays modern architecture with decorative elements. Get on that, will ya?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hut hut hut – I’m on it, Marian. At least one other person on the tour made the “that’s where they got that Picasso” comment, so I felt comfortable with the thoughts swirling in my head. I’ll take the older buildings any day.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great shots Dan. This post brings back fond memories of my trips to Chicago. I’ve done the architectural cruise on the river and I still want to do a few of the walking tours as well. Something to look forward to if I ever get back there.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I understand completely about the modern buildings and how they don’t provide character or interest or a desire to immortalize their doors. I’ve been wanting to do a Thursday door post about a modernistic eyesore in a nearby city that is surrounded by an older downtown and lots of character. I sigh and roll my eyes every time I look at it and think what a lost opportunity to reflect the beauty around it.

    100 bonus points for biting the bullet and going on your walking tour
    50 bonus points for beer
    -25 bonus points for using the term pug-ugly. I love pugs. They are not ugly, only misunderstood.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We took the boat tour a couple of years ago and loved it. Great way to get a “narrated” tour of Chicago’s diverse architecture. I know this is a “doors” post, but what??? no photo of the Bean!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I admire the genius of architecture knowledge one must have for these high rises, I don’t like the hard feel and lines of the glass and steel. Also the absence of pleasant lines – 99% are straight lines, which may be modern, but it’s unimaginative to me (except for the gigantic art works). Since I don’t have to be near it, I’m okay with it. But …you saw several doors:):)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. No matter how many times I pass or am in the City of Buffalo, my eyes are always drawn not to the modern skyscraper (sighs with you) but with the older buildings. I would LOVE to go down there with camera but Buffalo is the 10th most dangerous city in the States. So hubby of course won’t let me go. I agree to be perfectly honest with you. As for your walk, glad to know you were able to find room for a beer to tolerate all that glass and steel and stuff. Ya know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Amy. I’m surprised to learn that about Buffalo. Modern buildings amaze me in many ways, but I like it better when they at least try to make them visually interesting. So often, they just toss up a rectangle and cal it a day.

      Our day went according to plan, and I had a great time. I owe it all to my gracious host.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. That little tidbit about Buffalo made world news. Once upon a time I actually lived on the West Side and it was safe to walk anywhere. Not true any more. And yes on some of the modern buildings … Have a great day today, Dan!! ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Everybody’s favorite kind of door is definitely my favorite door here today! Great shot, nice lights. I do love all the sculpture in Chicago, and think it’s one of the better cities for it, but as you know, I’m iffy at best about modern architecture. Even when it’s appealing, I still feel this sorta ehhh…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That Golden Tree!!! I loved that it is surrounded by all that glass and steel. The reflections in the glass are wonderful, and I loved those revolving doors.

    I’ve only been to Chicago once in the early 80’s while on our Epic road trip across the US. We had less than day there. We visited the Shedd Aquarium, and The Science and Industry Museum-or something like that name. I so wanted to go to the top of Sears Towers, but it was so foggy and rainy a view of any kind from up at the top would have been impossible so we skipped it.

    Maybe someday I’ll get back there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The time before this when I was there for a meeting, I planned to go to the top of that tower (no longer Sears) and it was raining and foggy to the point that I couldn’t see half way up.

      The trees and the artwork do make a huge difference. I like the feel of Chicago, a little more spacious.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Any doors that include the Blues Brothers gets my nod. The revolving doors are very pretty. I’m glad you included a a nice door and a ruined door nearly side by side. It makes nice doors hit home. Thanks, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Mumble mumble mumble at this modernity. Imagine how many beers you could have drunk in those 90 minutes. :D So this is how it would be if the art of this world weren’t put in museums… I’d be amazed to find the Picasso there (since I only saw the film once, briefly, too young).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Chicago is definitely a place to see great architecture, and of course with great architecture comes great doors. I remember when the Picasso was installed. No one could figure out what it was.

    I checked out the website of the CAF. Seems they’re moving to 111 East Wacker Drive, where my first job was. It’s on the other side of the river (and other side of the street) from the Wrigley Building.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Love Chicago….grew up going into Chicago from Cedar Rapids about twice a year…parents were determined that us four kids were exposed to culture and museums….fell in love with the city and can’t believe how it has grown over the last …ugh…half a century +….great shots…great depiction of Chicago’s urban environment!!

    Liked by 1 person

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