An EP’s Guide to Chicago

As a new Assoc. AIA member this year, not only did I receive free membership for 12 months, but also I received free registration for the AIA Convention 2014 in Chicago, IL. Having grown up in Illinois, Chicago has always had a special hold on me.  If the sheer magnitude of great and historic architecture isn’t enough, the variety of restaurants, coffee shops and bars should definitely convince you. With the Convention less than a week away, I wanted to provide some suggestions for all of the EPs out there heading to Chicago for the first time or a return trip. With the help of some local Chicagoans, I’ve developed a list of some hidden (and not so hidden) treasures when visiting the Windy City. (See here for the actual explanation of why Chicago was named the Windy City.)

To start you off with some food selections, I turn to my good friend who is always on top of the food trends in Chicago, Julie Gillespie for a meal-by-meal list:


Start with grabbing coffee at Intelligentsia (there is a downtown location on Randolph and Wabash. It started in Chicago and is a great way to try something different while getting your morning caffeine fix. Great for coffee enthusiasts!


The Purple Pig: From the guys who brought you the classic Heaven on Seven…more than just pork! **Pro tip: actually a great destination for vegetarians with a large seasonal menu. Arrive between 11:30-12 to beat the crowds.

Travelle: Part of the Langham Hotel located in Mies van der Rohe’s IBM building this modern Mediterranean dining room has amazing views of Chicago’s riverfront, including Marina Towers!


Green Street Smoked Meats: Tucked away in a warehouse turned Texas cantina in Chicago’s restaurant haven, the West Loop. The meats are delicious; the atmosphere is happening and casual. Should not be missed!

 Nico Osteria: In the new boutique Thompson Hotel, this upscale cocktail lounge and restaurant serves traditional Italian seafood. Small menu for the adventurous eater. Great cocktails!


Three Dots and a Dash: A not so secret speakeasy-style tiki bar with $13 drinks that are actually worth the expense! **Pro tip: Make a reservation! Or get there before 5 pm to beat the after work crowd. Really picks up after 7!

Howells & Hood: On the ground level of the Tribune Tower. Simple as that.


I also reached out to fellow AIAS and Midwest Quad Director, Ryan Gann for some suggestions on some affordable (even FREE!) architectural site-seeing options that may not be on the typical list:

Studio Gang, Northerly Island: Northerly Island is currently undergoing construction to become the city’s next urban oasis. While completion is not due for another year, the nearby 12th street beach and serene trails are a preview of what is to come. Here is the Northerly Island framework.

Credit to Studio Gang Architects for image

Credit to Studio Gang Architects for image

Studio Gang, WMS Boathouse: Another great Studio Gang project is the recently completed WMS Boathouse @ Clark Park. Part of an initiative to re-populate the river with recreation, the building is an evocative beginning to a cultural shift of ecological appreciation.

A visit to the IIT campus is a must.

John Ronan, Poetry Foundation: John Ronan’s poetry foundation is a beautifully detailed building providing tranquility steps from the bustling Michigan Avenue.

Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, Chicago Cultural Center: Check out the Chicago Cultural Center in all its grand beauty, which includes one of the largest Louis Comfort Tiffany glass domes. The “CHGO DSNG: Recent Object and Graphic Design” exhibit is also up right now; providing a great snap shot into the graphic design community of the city.

Credit to

Credit to

Michael Van Valkenburgh, Maggie Daley Park: Although still under construction, the soon to be completed Maggie Daley Park designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates offers a sustained stance by the City of Chicago to provide public space for its visitors and residents.

Ross Barney Architects, Chicago River Walk: A stroll along the Chicago River walk is incredibly peaceful. The newest stretch, designed by Ross Barney Architects, promises to re-invent the urban experience of the river.

If you are still looking for more sites to see, check out Arch Record’s Reveals. I will be posting updates on the blog for conference must-sees and a distilled EP session list! See you in Chicago!



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