The Bell Building

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

The The Bell Building is a Postmodernist skyscraper designed by Holabird & Root and built between 1963 and 1966 in Chicago, IL.

The Bell 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 The Bell Building is also known, or has been known as, 225 West Randolph Street, Illinois Bell Telephone Buidling, or Ameritech Building.

Its precise street address is 225 W. Randolph St, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The The Bell 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 Postmodernism style. Because of that, the The Bell Building was officially declared as a national landmark on February 6th 2021.

The building has been restored 2 times over the years to ensure its conservation and adaptation to the pass of time. The main restoration works happened in 1989 and 2025.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Declared NL
years ago
  1. 1989 - In the renovation, the lobby was updated by installing wood panels on the walls and creating space for some shops on the ground floor. The elevator lobbies were remodeled, replacing the original granite on the walls with marble or wood panels, and the floors were changed to use black terrazzo .
  2. 2023 to 2025 - General rehabilitation started in may 2023 with an estimated budget of $154,000,000.

Architect and team

Holabird & Root was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

The studio was founded in Chicago in 1880, and even though it has changed names several times, the firm has evolved and is still active more than a century later.

The firm has played an important role in shaping the skyline of the windy city, and in the overall development of modern architecture in the United States.

The studio has evolved and adapted to the passage of time, from its rise with the Art Deco movement, to embracing the Modern style, and currently introducing sustainability into their designs.

Holabird Root

Holabird & Root 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 The Bell Building a reality:

  • Frank Henderson in charge of Structural Engineering
  • A.L. Jackson as the Main Contractor

Architectural Style

The The Bell Building can be categorized as a Postmodernist building.

Postmodernism in architecture emerged in the United States during the late 1960s as a reaction against the starkness of the International Style, which part of the new generation of architects argued was too impersonal, sterile, and disconnected from historical and cultural contexts.

Postmodernism challenged the International Style's austerity by reintroducing historical elements and ornamentation, although this time not as literally as in the Neo-Classic buildings. Instead, they reinterpreted them within the context of modern materials and construction techniques.

Postmodern buildings often feature bold, contrasting colors, unconventional forms, and a playful blend of various architectural elements from different eras and cultures.

In the United States, Postmodernism was not just an aesthetic choice but also a philosophical stance. It represented a democratization of design, where architects sought to create buildings that were accessible and meaningful to a broader range of people, not just designers and intellectuals.

Spaces & Uses

The The Bell Building reaches an architectural height of 427ft (130m). It has a total of 33 floors, 31 above ground and 2 basements.

The building sits on a 5,662 sqf (526m2) piece of land , and offers a total of 1,542,897 sqf (143,340m2) of usable space.

When it opened its doors to the public in 1966, the The Bell Building was primarily used as Commercial space. That however, is no longer the case, and today it mainly provides space.

427ft (130m)
2 basements

Materials & Structure

The The Bell Building uses a framed tube-in-tube structure , with steel columns and reinforced 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 colonnade clad in white marble at street level, that creates a public space behind which lies a recessed, glass-encased lobby. The columns, with a base of dark concrete measuring 0.61 meters, extend from the ground to the pinnacle of the building on all four facades, forming bays covered by a black Vitrolux glass curtain wall. At the top, a prominent horizontal marble slab forms a sort of cornice.