An Ode to Artchitecture in the City


In June 2013, Zapwater started working on a new client, Forum Studio, an award-winning, full-service architecture and design firm. With offices in Chicago and St. Louis, Forum Studio has designed and delivered 100+ diverse projects in the U.S. and abroad.

When I joined the Zapwater team earlier this year, I was thrilled to learn that I’d be working on this account. While I’m not a designer by trade, I’ve always had a passion for design and a special appreciation for the architecture in this city.

One Friday afternoon B.C. (aka “before the cold”) our team took a field trip downtown to embark on one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions: The Architectural Boat Tour.

Now, I’m going to nerd out here for a minute…I’ve lived in Chicago for 8+ years and I’ve probably been on the tour every year. There are so many things to love about the boat tour, but my favorite thing is seeing the many styles of architecture, reflecting the development of city. From the black steel, straight-lined modernist buildings, to the post-modernist and Art Deco designs, there’s truly something for everyone. Here are some of my all-time favorites:

- Trump Tower and the Wrigley Building – Trump was completed in 2009, surpassing the John Hancock as the second tallest building in Chicago. On the other hand, the Wrigley building was built in the 20’s and is reminiscent of the French renaissance style. Built almost 100 years apart, the juxtaposition of styles is pretty remarkable.

- Merchandise Mart – Originally built as a warehouse for Marshall Field and once the crown jewel of the Kennedy family portfolio, the legendary Merchandise Mart holds more office space than any structure on earth except the Pentagon.

- Boeing International Headquarters – The corporate headquarters for Boeing since 2001, the building’s design is quite unique. Due to clearance requirements of the site's commuter rail lines, the building’s structural system uses steel trusses to support its suspended southwest corner. In layman’s terms, that means that a significant portion of the building is built on a platform that hangs in the air.

- The Jewelers’ building – a historic building in the Loop, this has become one of my favorites this year. Full disclosure: I’ve spent a lot of time here recently because it is where Forum’s office is, but remains impressive nonetheless. What’s unique about this space in particular is that the façade remains unchanged, but the interiors have been converted into a more modern configuration. And aside from being very beautiful, the building has a very unique history: the dome at the top used it was a Prohibition-era speakeasy operated by Al Capone.

Having lived in the same city for so many years, I think it’s important to continue exploring new areas to really take advantage of all the city has to offer. So, when the weather warms up and the river unfreezes, do yourself a favor and embrace this tourist attraction. I promise you won’t regret it!

Morgan Bellock, Account Director