860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments

860 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments
  1. About the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments is an International Style skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe and built between 1949 and 1951 in Chicago, IL.

Its precise street address is 860–880 Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Chicago and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the International Style style. Because of that, the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments was officially declared as a national landmark on June 10th 1996, and was included in the National Register of Historic Places on August 28th 1980.

The building underwent a major restoration in 2009. The architect commissioned to undertake this restoration was Architects Krueck & Sexton.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the NRHP
Declared NL
years ago
  1. 2009 - This $9 million dollar restoration attempted to revert the work of some previous restorations and bring the buildings back as close as possible to their original form and materials. The architect in charge was Architects Krueck & Sexton.

Architect and team

Mies van der Rohe was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in 1886 in Germany. During the first part of his career, he ran his own practice in Berlin, and later on became the director of the Bauhaus School of Architecture.

Mies is considered one of the fathers of modern architecture. His work played an instrumental role in defining the aesthetics of the International Style, emphasizing simplicity, clean lines, and the use of modern materials like steel and glass. His famous statement, "less is more" sums up his design philosophy, which advocated for the elimination of unnecessary ornamentation and a return to the fundamental principles of architecture.

After the Bauhaus was shut down by the Natzi regime, he emigrated to Chicago. There he became the director of the IIT School of Architecture, as well as ran his own architectural firm. During his years in Chicago he continued to explore and promote the principles of the International Style, and had a huge impact on the development of modern skyscrapers.

His legacy can not only be found spread throughout Europe and the US in the shape of iconic buildings such as the German Pavilion, the Tugendhat House, the Crown Hall or the Seagram Building, but also in the architecture curriculum he developed at the IIT which greatly influenced many generations of architects, even to this day.

Mies Van Der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments a reality:

  • Georgia Louise Harris Brown in charge of Structural Engineering
  • Sumner S. Sollitt Company as the Main Contractor
  • Herbert Greenwald as the Main Developer

Architectural Style

The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments was completed in 1951. By 1951 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments reaches an architectural height of 269ft (82m). It has a total of 28 floors, 26 above ground and 2 basements.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1951, the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments has mainly been used as Residential space.

About the residences

The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments has a total of 248 residential units throughout its 26 floors.

269ft (82m)
2 basements

Materials & Structure

The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments uses a frame structure made of steel columns and concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features glass and steel in a language that is characteristic of Mies's architecture.

Although this is sometimes thought of as Mies's first curtain wall, the truth is the technique used here isn't quite a curtain wall, which he would execute later on at the neighboring project 900-910 North Lake Shore. Here at 869-889 Lake Shore Drive apartments, the windows are actually attached to the building's structure, not the mullions, which are indeed hung and could be considered a curtain wall.

Mies was famous for his quote "less is more", which summed up his pursuit of minimalism and his rejection of any ornamentation. Since the steel mullions on the facade are not technically structure, he was criticized for breaking his own rules, to which he replied that the mullions were, in fact, communicating the structure of the building to the outside observer, therefore making the building more "honest", and not used as an ornament..

Other materials found at the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments include, aluminum, for the window frames, sanded glass, for the lobby's glass walls, and travertine marble, used for the exterior spaces on the ground floor which go around each of the towers and connects it to one another.


  • www.chicago.gov
  • npgallery.nps.gov