Architecture of Three Cool Chicago Government Buildings

So many cities across America have a neo-Classical style civic center and I think it’s fantastic that Chicago didn’t end up with one. Chicago government buildings, instead, have an awesome blend of historic, modern, and postmodern styles of architecture. Happily, we get to see all three on our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour.

Many Chicagoans have renewed their drivers license at the DMV in Helmut Jahn’s J. R. Thompson Center. I know that I have had plenty of CTA commutes where my day started by walking under the brilliant natural light of the Thompson Center’s grand atrium. Or maybe you’ve gotten your license for marriage…or divorce at the Daley Center. Whether you live in Chicago or just planning a visit, you may find its worth a closer look architecturally at these Chicago government buildings near our civic center.

City Hall/Cook County Building

The City Hall/Cook County Building looks from the outside like a seamless whole structure, thanks to Holabird and Roche’s smart design. However, is really a building split right in half. Cook County, which occupies the southern half, started their half first, and then the city completed the building design. Chicago’s most famous rooftop garden can also be found on the roof of city hall. Designed to test green roof systems, native and non-native vegetation, heating and cooling benefits, and reductions in rainwater runoff, the rooftop garden was completed in 2001.

chicago picasso daley center cor-ten
Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

The Daley Center

The Daley Center is faced with Cor-Ten Steel, the same material as the Picasso sculpture. This super strong material is great for sliding down. Children naturally use the Picasso as a slide, which makes sense since the material was historically used for making slides on playgrounds.

The Cook County Building

The Cook County Building is the pale yellow skyscraper that looks like someone stamped the windows out of it. Instead of being built by the government, which is more typical, this government building in Chicago was bought. The Brunswick Corporation, of bowling fame, had this building constructed. The company made everything from beautiful carved wood bars to the systems that retrieve your bowling ball.

–Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours 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.”
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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.”
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