Carbide & Carbon Building

Carbide Carbon Building
  1. About the Carbide & Carbon Building in Chicago
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Carbide & Carbon Building is an Art-deco skyscraper designed by Burnham Brothers and built between 1928 and 1929, for a reported $4.75 million dollars, in Chicago, IL.

Carbide & Carbon Building is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The building has changed names several times over the years, and is also known as:

  • Hard Rock Hotel Chicago between 2004 and 2017.
  • St. Jane Chicago Hotel between 2018 and 2020.
  • Pendry Chicago Hotel from 2021 until this day.

Its precise street address is 230 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The Carbide & Carbon Building 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 Art Deco style. Because of that, the Carbide & Carbon Building was officially declared as a national landmark on May 9th 1996.

Black buildings were not common at all before Mies and the International Style made them popular in the 1950's. So the Burhman brothers deciding to make the Carbide & Carbon Building black, and top it with gold, was definitely a statement and a guarantee that rebuilding would stand out from the light limestone facades that most buildings had at that time.

In this particular case the building was supposed to evoke "luxury", and it is said that the Burhman brothers got inspired by the bottle one of the drinks with more caché there is: champagne. Champagne bottles are usually made in dark glass and are topped with a golden metal wrap. So by following this same structure and color palette the architects attempted to give the building a certain luxury feel.

The building underwent a major restoration between 2001 and 2004. The architect commissioned to undertake this restoration was Lucien Lagrange & Associates.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Declared NL
St. Jane Chicago Hotel
Pendry Chicago Hotel
years ago

Architect and team

Burnham Brothers was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

But that's not all, there was also a whole team of architects involved, which included: Daniel Burnham, Hubert Burnham, and Daniel Burnham Jr..

The Burnham Brothers architecture studio was one of the most prominent Chicago-based firms of the late 19th and early 20th century. Both brothers, Daniel H. Burnham and John H. Burnham, had previously worked at their dad's studio D. H. Burnham & Company and decided to establish their own practice after he passed away.

The work of the newly formed family studio became key in the development of the city of Chicago taking the direction it took, and becoming what it is today.

The firm had a strong influence in the 1909 Plan of Chicago, which laid the foundation for the city's urban expansion. They were known for their innovative designs, as well as for their interest in the urban space and its relationship with architecture.

Burnham Brothers and the other architects already mentioned were 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 Charles Harkins in charge of Structural Engineering.

Architectural Style

The Carbide & Carbon Building can be categorized as an Art-deco building.

The Art Deco movement flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, with many historians marking the outbreak of World War II as its final decline. Even though a couple of decades might not seem as much, the Art Deco movement had a great impact on architecture, and it's widely represented in many American cities due to the development boom that happened during that time.

Art Deco marked the abandonment of traditional historicism and the embracement of modern living and the age of the machine. In architecture, that meant leaving behind the ornaments of Beux-Arts and Neo-Gothic buildings and instead favoring simplicity and visual impact through geometric shapes, clean lines, and symmetrical designs. Ornaments were still an important part of the design, but they became bold and lavish, and were often inspired by ancient cultures or industrial imagery, instead of nature.

The Carbide & Carbon Building was completed in 1929, right when the Art Deco movement was at its peak, so it kind of went with the trend at that time.

Spaces & Uses

The Carbide & Carbon Building reaches an architectural height of 502ft (153m). It has a total of 39 floors, 37 above ground and 2 basements, which combined offer a total of 344,994 sqf (32,051m2) of usable space.

When it opened its doors to the public in 1929, the Carbide & Carbon Building was primarily used as Commercial space. That however, is no longer the case, and today it mainly provides Hotel space.

About the Hotel

The hotel is a 4 stars category hotel, with a total of 396 rooms available to the public.

502ft (153m)
2 basements

Materials & Structure

The Carbide & Carbon Building uses a frame structure made of steel columns and reinforced-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 black polished granite on the lower floors and dark green terracotta from there on.

Another material found at the Carbide & Carbon Building is 24 karat gold leaf, used for the top of the building features.