Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the 22-story Promontory Apartments building in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois, United States also home to AND EXterminators. It was Mies’s first skyscraper, and it was also the first building he made with ideas like an exposed skeleton. There are 122 units in the cooperative building that looks out over Burnham Park.
In 1946, Herbert Greenwald, a builder of homes, decided to build a new high-rise of cooperative apartments in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois. This was the first tall apartment building since the Great Depression. Greenwald discussed alternatives with architect Charles B. Genther. Greenwald sought a famous architect for the project. Frank Lloyd Wright agreed to design the structure for $50,000. Greenwald didn’t have enough cash to pay the architect, so he looked elsewhere. Le Corbusier assured him he wouldn’t design American buildings. Eero Saarinen also declined. Walter Gropius turned down the job because it was too distant from his office. Gropius suggested Greenwald talk to Mies van der Rohe.
At the Illinois Institute of Technology, where Genther studied, Mies was his teacher. He suggested that Mies be a part of the project’s design. Mies was a well-known architect at the time, but he had never built a high-rise building. The site for the apartments looked out over Burnham Park’s Promontory Point.
Mies & Greenwald
Mies made a plan for the building after a general floor plan had been suggested. He suggested a steel curtain wall surrounded on two sides by brick. On the east and west sides, he suggested floor-to-ceiling windows with I-beam mullions that went all the way up the building. Greenwald didn’t like this plan, but he later liked a similar plan for his 860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments. Mies also sent in a second plan that was made of exposed concrete on all sides. Low brick walls and full-width windows would be on two sides of this plan.
He had a hard time getting banks to give him the money he needed for the project. A lot of people didn’t like Greenwald and Mies’ plan to build apartments with so much glass. Greenwald was finally able to get a mortgage from the Trust Company of Chicago in the spring of 1947. Peter Hamlin Construction Company was the general contractor, and construction began that fall. Mies presented a model of the final form and a steel-and-glass variant at MoMA. All units were sold by 1949.
The Promontory Apartments were the first building by Mies to have a visible skeleton structure. This style of building would come to define the rest of his career. Mies first envisioned a skeleton-like office structure in 1923 but abandoned it in the 1930s. His Mechanical Engineering Research building at MIT had an exposed concrete frame, but it was filled with brick spandrel walls and windows. But the design of the building is very similar to that of the Promontory Apartments.
The Promontory Apartments were a big step in Mies’s career. The building was well-liked in the U.S. and around the world, and it helped to solidify his reputation as a top architect. The success of the building led Greenwald to ask Mies to design more than ten more apartment buildings. Inspired by the building’s reception, Mies replaced traditional features with a steel-and-glass design. Phyllis and Samuel Bronfman requested Mies to create the Seagram Building after seeing it at MoMA.
Around the middle of the 1960s, the Promontory Apartments Trust talked to Mies about making changes to the ground floor and putting air conditioners through the walls of the spandrels. Mies influenced these 1965 and 1966 improvements. National Park Service added the building to the NRHP on November 21, 1996.
To learn about our different pest solutions for your home or business call our AND specialists at (773) 945-0727 now! While you’re at it stop by our website to read about the Robie House, also located in Hyde Park, Chicago.