Richard J. Daley Center

Richard J Daley Center
  1. About the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Richard J. Daley Center is an International Style skyscraper designed by C.F. Murphy Associates, with Jacques Browson as lead architect,, in association with Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett, and Skidmore, Owings & Merill, and built between 1963 and 1965, for a reported $87.0 million dollars, in Chicago, IL.

Richard J. Daley Center 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:

  • Daley Plaza.
  • Chicago Civic Center between 1965 and 1976.
  • Richard J. Daley Center from 1976 until this day.

Its precise street address is 55 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

All the architecture firms invovled in this project were heavily influences by the teachings of Mies van der Rohe, and therefore it comes as no surprise that the building follows many of the solutions that Mies's skyscrapers did, some of which are literally just a couple blocks away.

The plaza at the north end of which the building stands provides public spaces for various events and features an untitled sculpture by Pablo Picasso, known as "The Picasso".

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Chicago Civic Center
Richard J. Daley Center
years ago

Architect and team

C.F. Murphy Associates, with Jacques Browson as the lead architect, was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design, in association with Loebl, Schlossman & Bennett, and Skidmore, Owings & Merill.

C.F. Murphy Associates 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 Richard J. Daley Center a reality:

  • Chicago Public Building Commission as the Main Developer
  • Pablo Picasso as the collaborating Artist

Architectural Style

The Richard J. Daley Center 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 Richard J. Daley Center was completed in 1965. By 1965 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 Richard J. Daley Center was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Richard J. Daley Center reaches an architectural height of 650ft (198m). It has a total of 31 floors.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1965, the Richard J. Daley Center has mainly been used as Governmental space.

650ft (198m)

Materials & Structure

The Richard J. Daley Center uses a framed tube-in-tube structure , with steel columns and concrete slabs.

A framed tube-in-tube structure uses a central core, known as inner tube, which usually holds stairs, lifts and installations, and a perimeter of columns around it, which form the exterior tube. The interior tube is tipically more massive (often made of reinforced concrete), and the exterior tube is "lighter" (made of steel or concrete columns). Both tubes are conencted via horizontal elements which make up the floors and also transmit any horizontal froces from the facade to the core.

The facade of the building is load bearing. This is a direct consequence of the integration of the exterior "tube" into the facade, something which most framed tube-in-tube buildings do in order to liberate the interior space from structural elements and achieve a more flexible interior.

So the facade of the builing is techinically load-bearing, yes, however, in between the load-bearing colums we find a curtain-wall type of facade, which by itself would not be cosnidered load-bearing.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a reddish-brown color combined with bronze-tinted glass curtain wall that rises above the first floor. It was one of the first buildings clad in Cor-Ten steel, a material that develops a natural rust that forms a permanent protective layer that doesn't require maintenance.

Based on the architectural style for skyscrapers established by Mies van der Rohe, the building doesn't have significant interior columns, only 12 exterior, cross-shaped columns, that taper as they ascend and need to bear less weight. Four other columns surround the elevator core.