A brief insight into the architects who designed Chicago skyscrappers after the devastating 1871 fire. By looking up, unlike the traditional horizontal orientation, the limited ground area opened up available floor space.

Most of the buildings noted here combined the old masonry construction with newer techniques in fireproofing, grillage footings, and the use of iron-and-steel skeleton construction. In the 1890s and the twentieth century the skyscraper was more fully transformed into a steel skeleton on which the exterior walls were hung as a curtain to protect the interior rather than to support the weight of the building.

A coincidence of circumstances created the opportunity for a new urban architecture in Chicago that would be emulated across the nation. Several factors played important roles in this transformation. Certainly the Great Fire swept the ground clean. The need for office space in a physically circumscribed central district was the pressing problem. The economics of real estate and escalating land values required faster construction that also made possible new construction cheaper. The growth of the steel industry provided material and techniques. The creative intellectual vision of the founders of the Chicago School developed the skyscraper out of these needs and possibilities.

As our societies contend with the COVID fire that has razed down our hypothetical towns, new ideas on how to accommodate social demands are badly needed.