Palmolive Building, 07 February 2011


I may have mentioned before my affinity for Art Deco design; [1] while Chicago (rightly) is well-known for its many skyscrapers, the city is also home to quite a number of fantastic Art Deco buildings, as well. The following building is a mighty fine example of that style.




Photo Information:

Location: Chicago, Illinois; Streeterville Neighborhood
Camera: Nikon D80
Lens: Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX
ISO Equivalency: 100
Color Setting: Vivid

This particular building is the Palmolive Building (now generally identified as 919 North Michigan Avenue), which was designed by the firm Holabird & Root and completed in 1929. [2] Apparently, at one point the building was known as the Playboy Building, due to the eponymous magazine being headquartered there for a little over two decades. [3]

Anyways, from the second and third photos, one can easily see the setbacks that became a hallmark of Art Deco skyscraper design as a result of the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act, which was originally created in 1924 and based upon a NYC precedent set in 1926. [4][5] The lantern on top of the building is also an interesting touch – and quite practical, that is, until taller buildings were erected around it!



[1]: To clarify, I am most interested in the original Art Deco period, which took place during the late 1920s through the mid-1940s, and less so with the designs from later periods that are sometimes also defined as Art Deco.

[2]: Per information available in the AIA Guide to Chicago.

[3]: See here for additional history of the building (Wikipedia article).

[4]: To clarify: After the completion of the Equitable Building in Manhattan, many residents were outraged by the seven acre shadow cast by the building (understandably so, IMHO); this led to the enactment of the 1916 Zoning Regulation, which subsequently influenced the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act published by the Federal Department of Commerce in 1924, which was adopted by many states and municipalities. As the beginning of the Art Deco style is generally accepted to have been during the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, the connection between the two seems quite obvious.

[5]: Another factor that helped codify the effects of these regulations on skyscraper design was the architect / illustrator Hugh Ferriss, whose illustrations of skyscraper setbacks were widely published and influential during the 1920s. See here for a bit of the history surrounding the illustrations, as well as a photograph of the drawings themselves (via the Skyscraper Museum website).


3 Responses to “Palmolive Building, 07 February 2011”

  1. […] and probably isn’t even the best example of the style in Chicago (I happen to like the Palmolive Building a little better, myself). My trusty AIA Guide to Chicago mentions that the building was completed […]

  2. […] of that firm sounds familiar, it’s because they also designed the Palmolive Building, which I mentioned a couple weeks back; in fact, Holabird & Root, in one incarnation or another, has been […]

  3. […] completed in 1929 and designed by Holabird & Root. I’ve posted photos of this building before, so if you’re interested in seeing some other views of it, check out that […]

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