Promontory Apartments

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

The Promontory Apartments is an International Style skyscraper designed between 1946 and 1947 by Mies van der Rohe and built between 1947 and 1949 in Chicago, IL.

Its precise street address is 5530–5532 South Shore Dr., Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The Promontory 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 Promontory Apartments was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places on November 21st 1996.

This was the first skyscraper Mies actually got built, after having designed some concepts early in his career which were never executed.

As in those early skyscraper concepts, Mies proposed a steel and glass curtain wall facade with floor-to-ceiling windows. The developer did not approve this idea for this project, and Mies would have to wait until 900-910 North Lake Shore to see his idea realized, ironically, working with the same developer.

Building's timeline

Design begins
Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the NRHP
years ago

Architect and team

Mies van der Rohe 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: Holsman, Klekamp & Taylor, and Pace Associates.

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 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 here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the Promontory Apartments a reality:

  • Frank Kornacker in charge of Structural Engineering
  • Peter Hamlin Construction Company as the Main Contractor
  • Haughton Elevator Co. as the company in charge of the elevators system
  • Herbert Greenwald as the Main Developer

Architectural Style

The Promontory 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 Promontory Apartments was designed in 1946. By 1946 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 Promontory Apartments was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Promontory Apartments reaches an architectural height of 218ft (66.5m). It has a total of 23 floors, 22 above ground and 1 basements.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1949, the Promontory Apartments has mainly been used as Residential space.

About the residences

The Promontory Apartments has a total of 122 residential units throughout its 22 floors.

218ft (66.5m)
1 basements

Materials & Structure

The Promontory Apartments uses a frame structure made of concrete columns and beams.

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 an exposed concrete structure with low brick spandrels and panoramic windows. The bricks are light-colored and the concrete structure is painted to match the bricks, giving the building a overall light-cream color.