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Chicago Federal Center

Comprising the Everett McKinley Dirksen Building; the John C. Kluczynski Building; and the Loop Post Office

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe 1959-1974

Schmidt, Garden & Erickson, C.F. Murphy Associates and A. Epstein & Sons, associate architects

Graced by Alexander Calder’s loopy Flamingo "stabile," the Chicago Federal Center is a "study in geometric perfection," the "ultimate expression of the second Chicago school of architecture," according to Gerard Wolfe, in Chicago: In and Around the Loop, Walking Tours of Architecture and History.

Franz Schulze, in the AIA Guide to Chicago, concurs, noting that:

Mies’s uncompromising devotion to principle, together with his vaunted sensitivity to proportion and structural detail, and, in this case, the organizational scale, combine to give the complex a monumental urban presence.

Both towers are curtain-wall structures characteristic of the high-rise design of Mies’s American period. Their steel frames, suppressed behind uniform walls of glass and steel, are marked off by projecting steel I-beam mullions. The Post Office, a unitary space with a central core, is similarly typical of Mies’s reductivist concept of the single-story pavilion. Externally thin yet powerful structural columns of steel brace enormous panes of tinted glass.

Commissioned by the US General Services Administration as part of a 1950s plan to modernize the federal government administration and judiciary buildings, the plaza ran into budgetary difficulties, resulting in its long construction period. Completed, it is a lovely addition to a series of modernist buildings downtown that are humanly-scaled and materially rich at the ground level, including Inland Steel and the Richard J. Daley Center.


fedctr1.jpg (29455 bytes)  fedctr3.jpg (33043 bytes)

Christy Rogers, 1998

How to visit

Downtown is best negotiated by foot, cab or train. The closest stop on the red line is the Jackson stop.

Books and other web sites

Click the book title to view and to order direct from


0226740609_m.gif (13814 bytes) Mies van der Rohe: A critical biography
Franz Schulze


0393315045_m.gif (5721 bytes) The Master Builders: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright
Peter Blake

A highly readable introduction.



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