Visiting Chicago – Virtually

With shutdowns happening around the world you probably had to postpone your visit to Chicago. I have put together a few links to virtual tours or apps so you can still get a taste of some of the cultural offering of Chicago. I have included 3 museums, 2 Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings, Millennium Park, the Aqua Building + an app. You can find more on YouTube of course. What online resources and virtual tours have you found helpful?


1)   Art Institute of Chicago

A world-class art museum where you can browse through the works in the Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art galleries, bop over to American Art or see some photography in the Modern Wing or the Thorne Miniature Rooms downstairs.  If it seems overwhelming, they offer a selection of works by theme as well.  I have selected 2 links here to get you started, take a look and make a list of your must-sees when you do get here.

2)   Museum of Contemporary Photography

A small museum dedicated to photography with exhibitions that embrace a wide range of contemporary aesthetics and technologies. They try to cultivate a deeper understanding of the artistic, cultural and political roles of photography in our world today. They have well known and lesser known photographers in their collection, all of them interesting and worth a look. When you visit in person, you only see the current exhibit, while online, the past exhibits are here too, so, you can actually see more!


3)   Oriental Institute

Maybe you hadn’t heard of this museum in Hyde Park, so, now is the perfect time to explore it. The Oriental Institute Museum showcases the history, art, and archaeology of the ancient Near East. The museum is part of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, and displays objects from their excavations. There are galleries devoted to ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and the ancient site of Megiddo, as well as rotating special exhibits. This tour allows you to preview the galleries and includes a number of archival images of highlighted objects from the collections:


4)   Millenium Park – visual tour

Millennium Park is a not to be missed highlight of Chicago in the Loop. It covers a 24.5-acre (99,000 m2) that was previously occupied by rail yards and parking lots. The park is a fantastic example of how art creates public space. Three major artistic works: Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry, Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, and the Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa.

–       Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor stage designed by Frank Gehry for concerts and films in the warmer months, framed by curving ribbons of textured stainless steel. The pavilion has 4,000 fixed seats, plus additional lawn seating for 7,000. It was named after Jay Pritzker, whose family is known for owning Hyatt Hotels and was a major donor.

–       Cloud Gate (also known as ‘the bean’) is a reflective steel sculpture, three stories tall, inspired by liquid mercury that has become a symbol of Chicago. The curved surface reflects the city’s skyline and the people who walk around and under it. Under it is a concave reflecting chamber that warps and multiplies reflections. There are 168 stainless steel plates welded together creating a highly polished exterior that has no visible seams. It is 33 by 66 by 42 feet (10 m × 20 m × 13 m) and weighs 110 short tons (100 t; 98 long tons).

–       Crown Fountain is an interactive fountain named in honor of Chicago’s Crown family. The fountain is made up of a black granite reflecting pool placed between 2 glass brick towers. The towers are 50 feet (15 m) tall made of 10,000 glass bricks. The faces of 1,000 Chicagoans appear on the fountain. Water intermittently cascades down the sides or spouts through a nozzle like a modern gargoyle.

5)   Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio – visual tour

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park is where the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright lived while raising his family of 6 children. He asked for a loan from Louis Sullivan for $5,000 to purchase the land and build his home. The house has been restored by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust to its appearance in 1909, the last year Frank Lloyd Wright lived there with his family. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and declared a National Historic Landmark four years later.

The firm used historic black-and-white photos to recreate every detail the way Wright originally designed it from fabric to furniture to lighting. Thread samples were studied to recreate the carpets and table runners. A missing dinner table was recreated using a composite of photographs. The last remaining original table light, which is owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, was examined to recreate additional lights. They also spent time understanding the lighting scheme by using reproduction period light bulbs. The intent is that each room is lit with the same color and intensity as it had been.

6)   Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright – visual tour

Unity Temple is a Unitarian Universalist church in Oak Park also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is walking distance from his home which you saw in the previous visit. From the outside it looks a bit like a Mayan Temple. The geometric architecture was built primarily out of reinforced cement between 1905 and 1908. It is an architectural interpretation of the principles and beliefs of the Unitarian Universalists. It is an active place of worship and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

7)   Aqua Building – visual tour

Aqua is the building downtown with undulating balconies that looks like water is flowing down the sides of it. Designed by Jeanne Gang, it is an 82-story mixed-use residential use and the hotel Radisson Blu. On the top is a terrace with gardens, gazebos, pools, hot tubs, a walking/running track and a fire pit. Each floor covers approximately 16,000 sq ft (1,500 m2).

8) Chicago Landmarks in 3D

Depending on your geographic location, you can download this app and visit many of Chicago’s top landmarks. I don’t think it is available in the States.

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