Of course when people plan a trip to Chicago, many think of a theater experience. From the Goodman Theater to Broadway shows, we have some great theater options. A special bonus of going to downtown theater performances is the opulent architecture you will experience. The drama of theaters isn’t reserved solely to the performance however; it’s evident in their architectural design as well. Here are some of our downtown favorites.
Both the Oriental Theater and the Chicago Theater were originally designed in the 1920s as cinema houses and are used for theatrical and musical performances today. Films were an easy ticket to a fantasy world, far away from everyday cares, and the architecture of the buildings display exotic opulence to assist with that journey. The regal rococo of Versailles inspired the interior spaces of the Chicago Theater, with over-the-top plaster ornamentation.
The Oriental Theater, today also called the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, of course took a more eastern inspiration. We discuss the liberal aspects of the term “eastern” on our Good Times Historic Bar Tour. While the ornamentation is still very European-styled with gold plaster cherubs, faces, and garlands, the use of red, gold and black lends to its moniker. We also see on the sign itself that onion shape which recalls other eastern inspired architecture around town.
The mother of them all, the Auditorium Building, has no comparison. It’s hard to believe that demolishing of this Louis Sullivan-designed treasure has been discussed several times over its history. Built in the late 1800s, this giant, blocky granite building was an engineering feat for its day, with hotel, offices, and the 4,300-seat theater. Inside, a multitude of ornate arches ring the theater, with ornamentation characteristic of Sullivan’s love for organic inspiration. When you go here for a performance today, or for a tour of the building, the beauty of the space really transports you to another place.
– Chicago Detours Staff