Inland Steel Building

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

The Inland Steel Building is an International Style skyscraper designed in 1956 by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with Bruce Graham and Walter Netsch as lead architect, and built between 1957 and 1958, for a reported $6.00 million dollars, in Chicago, IL.

Its precise street address is 30 W. Monroe Street, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The Inland Steel 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 International Style style. Because of that, the Inland Steel Building was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places on February 18th 2009.

The building incorporates many modernist concepts, perfect proportions, attention to detail, high-quality materials and the Miesian desing concept of universal space, with column-free interiors.

The building's shape is defined by two towers: a 19-story office tower and an adjacent 25-story tower that houses all the essential services and facilities of the building, including bathrooms, elevators, and stairs. A one-story unit that contains auxiliary facilities is attached to the service tower. This arrangement of the central core in the service tower frees up space in the adjacent office tower, offering an open floor plan, column-free, because all structural elements have been pushed out, all the way to curtain wall of the building.

This wide-span structure is in part possible thanks to the seven columns on each of the longer facades, supported by steel piles that go as far as 26 meters deep into the bedrock, and are clad in stainless steel with nickel-chromium, which give the building its distinctive silvery, shiny look.

At the time of its completion in 1958 the Inland Steel Building incorporated solutions that were quite advanced at the time, these included being the first fully air-conditioned building in Chicago, the first to have an indoor underground parking, the first constructed on steel pilings, and the first with an automated window washing and mail distribution systems. So the Inland Steel Building definitely took Chicago's architecture scene one step closer to modernity.

The building underwent a major restoration in 2018. The architect commissioned to undertake this restoration was Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Building's timeline

Design completed
Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the NRHP
years ago
  1. 2018 - Extensive renovation that mainly involved refurbishing the existing glazing and replacing it with high-performance, low-emissivity glass, as well as installing a green roof to manage rainwater. The office spaces were also modified to meet the needs of modern companies, with ergonomic workstations that allow users to customize their air and natural light preferences. The architect in charge was Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Architect and team

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with Bruce Graham and Walter Netsch as the lead architect, was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

Commonly known as SOM, the firm was founded in Chicago in 1936 and has grown to be one of the largest architecture firms in the world.

Even long after its founders passed away, SOM has remained at the top of worldwide architectural excellence by attracting visionary architects. Amongst their most notorious partners we find names such as Gordon Bunshaft, Bruce Graham, Walter Netsch, Adrian Smith, Myron Goldsmith or David Childs.

SOM has also managed to grow and evolve to tackle the architectural challenges of each time, whatever those might be, and today is committed to aspects as important as efficiency and sustainability, as core values of their designs.

With a legacy spanning decades, SOM continues to shape the skylines of cities around the world, and is a usual contestant in any competition or selection process to design large-scale or iconic buildings and structures.

Skidmore Owings Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill 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 Inland Steel Company as the Main Developer.

Architectural Style

The Inland Steel Building 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 Inland Steel Building was completed in 1958. By 1958 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 Inland Steel Building was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Inland Steel Building reaches an architectural height of 331ft (101m). It has a total of 22 floors, 19 above ground and 3 basements, served by 7 elevators.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1958, the Inland Steel Building has mainly been used as Commercial space.

331ft (101m)
3 basements

Materials & Structure

The Inland Steel Building uses a frame structure made of steel columns and 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 of the building however, is load bearing. This doesn't imply that it is a traditional load-bearing wall. Rather, it means that the structure's exterior pillars have been pushed to the very edges, becoming integrated with the facade, and therefore, technically, a part of it.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features two towers rising above a glass vestibule. Mullions and transoms of the curtain wall are made of stainless steel, glazed with aquamarine-tinted laminated glass and porous concrete panels.

On the east and west sides, 7 slender and prominent columns covered in brushed steel stand out, rising above street level and continuing to over the end of the structure as the only decorative element. In this case, the structure, a purely functional element, gives the building its distinctive aesthetic. This is a clear case of function over form.