Architectural Photos of Chicago’s Mag Mile

A few weeks ago I signed up for an Instagram account for Chicago Detours. I had already had a personal one, which I decided I would keep to private and just use for sharing with friends pictures of things I thought are funny or curious. I didn’t want to bore my friends with my obsession with all things architectural.

Now with the Chicago Detours Instagram, I can geek out about architecture and archival research all I want! We know not everyone is on Instagram, so here and there we will share our photos with our lovely blog readers and subscribers. By no means am I a professional photographer. I just find it to be a fun way to engage with Chicago architecture and play with visual stories.

For this first post, I’m going to share some pictures I took in a very iconic area of the city – the Magnificent Mile, near the historic Chicago Water Tower and the route for our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour.

Hyatt Building Architectural PhotographyThis first one is of Park Tower, which houses condos and the Park Hyatt Hotel. The fun part about this photo is that it ends up looking more like a piece of furniture, or a piano, than a building. This 67-floor concrete skyscraper is one of the tallest non-steel-frame structures in the world. Looking up at it this postmodern monster towering over the tiny historic Water Tower, I realized something. While I often ignore the kind of postmodern-style buildings that have money-grubbing, mass-manufactured, cheesy facades (many are along Michigan Ave), some can indeed be beautiful or interesting from other perspectives. You just have to find that perspective…and put photographic filters on it!

Crazy Chicago Architecture Water Tower LevelsThis next one isn’t so abstract as the first architectural photo. Here we have the architectural interior the Water Tower Place, the shopping mall that should not be confused with the historic Water Tower in the following photograph. From this vantage point, don’t the people milling around on all the different levels seem kinda like hamsters scurrying around in those wacky stacking, modular cages that kids love? Maybe I’m letting on to how I feel about shopping, and malls, especially on a Saturday! On our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour, actually, we address how this kind of architecture is standard in malls, and the psychology behind its design. Ok, I’m done with the blatant plugging our tours with Chicago Detours.

Anyway, visually I just found that this view of the various levels, the criss-crossing of the escalators, and so many people would create an interesting photographic image. And then on top of it all, the picture is taken through the glass of the elevators, so the reflections add a slightly ethereal quality.

Modernism Contrasted with Historic Water TowerWhen I posted this architectural photo on Instagram, a lot of people were confused. The high contrast mixed with the matching parallel lines of the modernist skyscraper and the historic Water Tower make them seem like one unified structure. And then to make it even more confusing, I turned it upside down! This is looking northwest at the Water Tower (Walgreens on the corner of Chicago and Michigan Avenues would be behind you). I found this to be a surprising contrast of old and new architecture (okay, the modernist architecture behind it isn’t so new anymore, but you get the idea!)

Any requests for a special neighborhood or architectural subject to tackle for the next post of photos?

— Amanda Scotese, Executive Director



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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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