Fisher Building (Chicago), 31 July 2009


Along with the Carbide and Carbon Building, the Fisher Building is one of my favorite Chicago landmarks. The building was originally designed by D. H. Burnham & Co., and was originally completed in 1896, just five years after the completion of Burnham & Root’s celebrated Reliance Building. Like the Reliance Building, the Fisher Building used a then-revolutionary (and very, very new) steel frame with light masonry cladding, in this case (and in the case of the Reliance Building), pre-cast terra cotta panels.


As you can clearly see, the terra cotta panels on the Fisher Building have a warm earth tone that looks especially good in late afternoon sunlight. Unlike the details of the Reliance Building, those on the Fisher Building are a bit more clearly inspired by traditional Gothic details, though the building also features some highly unique details that are patterned after mythical sea creatures. [1] The Gothic heritage can be most clearly seen in the grouped colonnettes at the corners of the window bays, as well as the corner of the building itself.

Regarding the photo itself, I chose this composition to highlight the groups of vertical elements in the building, including the corner colonnettes and the window “stacks.” I also shot the photo at a slight wideangle setting [2] to further exaggerate the perspective lines. The resulting photo did not require much post processing; I shot this photo in late January, and in the late afternoon, [3] so the sun was relatively low in the sky and, as such, the sunlight was more heavily weighted towards the red spectrum (actually, more like orange, in this case). [4] In fact, a “standard” color correction here would have reduced the red tones in the image, yielding a result that would appear somewhat colder; in this case, I did not perform such a correction, as I preferred the warm look you see here. Since I shot this photo on a relatively clear day, the light intensity was quite good, so I only needed to perform some minor contrast manipulation.

The Fisher Building is located at 343 South Dearborn Street, which is easily accessible via the Jackson stops on either the CTA Red or Blue Lines. I recommend visiting the building so that you can see the sea creature details up close; I will post another photo (later on) that will illustrate my favorite detail from this building, but there are many others worth checking out.



[1]: Perhaps, this was inevitable given the name of the building’s owner, Lucius Fisher. Get it? Sea monsters + Fisher? Yeah, I know.

[2]: In this case, I believe the lens was set to approximately 35mm; this is not a particularly “wide” view, but it provides a greater field of view than a normal lens.

[3]: Which, at this time of year, was around 1500 in the afternoon; during the mid-winter months, sunset in Chicago starts around 1630, so the window of opportunity for capturing photos such as this one is relatively small.

[4]: Hence, the warmer tones of the photo, helped along, of course, by the color of the terra cotta itself. Don’t know why? For shame. Read here and here (Wikipedia articles).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: