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The Architectural Glory of Historic Warehouses

Chicago warehouses were once built with architectural flair, but today’s industrial structures don’t come close.
March 15, 2020, 9am PDT | Camille Fink
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Tony Webster

"The next time an Amazon package arrives at your door, think of where it came from: A sprawling warehouse that’s a miracle of logistics and a piece of architecture with as much personality as a cardboard box," writes Blair Kamin.

Kamin looks back at Chicago’s long history of architecturally significant warehouses and other industrial buildings, including the Marshall Field Wholesale Store from 1887. "Designed by Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson to sell wholesale goods, the Field store projected the austere authority of a Renaissance palace. Graceful Romanesque arches punctuated its load-bearing exterior walls, which were made of huge pieces of highly textured Missouri red granite and red sandstone from Massachusetts."

Such a commitment to quality design and materials no longer exists, Kamin laments. "The problem is that Amazon’s architects are designing cookie-cutter buildings that are the very opposite of the Chicago warehouses that engaged the streets around them, combined efficient function with powerful form, and reflected the pride of their local owners."

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