900-910 North Lake Shore

900 910 North Lake Shore
  1. About the 900-910 North Lake Shore in Chicago
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The 900-910 North Lake Shore is an International Style skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe and built in 1956 in Chicago, IL.

900-910 North Lake Shore is not the only name you might know this building by though. The building is, or has also been known as Esplanade Apartments.

Its precise street address is 900-910 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

It was in this building that Mies finally saw his vision for what would become his signature curtain wall, with dark steel mullions, realized. He had first proposed this idea for the Promotory Apartment, completed in 1949, and later on achieved a visually very similar solution at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, just across the street, but it wasn't until this project where Mies was able to execute his dream facade without any technical restrictions.

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 at the very least we know that there was one other part involved, that was Herbert Greenwald as the Main Developer.

Architectural Style

The 900-910 North Lake Shore 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 900-910 North Lake Shore was completed in 1956. By 1956 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 900-910 North Lake Shore was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

It has a total of 29 floors.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1956, the 900-910 North Lake Shore has mainly been used as Residential space.

About the residences

The 900-910 North Lake Shore has a total of 524 residential units throughout its 29 floors.

Materials & Structure

The 900-910 North Lake Shore 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 dark glass and steel. This became Mies's first true curtain wall, since the facade of the neighboring 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, although having a very similar look, isn't technically a curtain wall.

Another material found at the 900-910 North Lake Shore is travertine marble, used for the exterior spaces on the ground floor which go around each of the towers and connects it to one another.