Jon Heinert / Courtesy Wheeler Kearns
Metropolitan Correction Center / Courtesy Antoine Taveneaux via Wikipedia
Jay Pritzker Pavilion / Courtesy Leandro Neumann Ciuffo via Wikipedia
South Garden at the Art Institute designed by Dan Kiley / Courtesy Roller Coaster Photography via Flickr
Jon Heinert is a partner at Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects, where he has practiced since 1999. Wheeler Kearns recently completed 1611 West Division, a 12-story mixed-use apartment building without a parking garage that helped reshape the city’s zoning ordinance. Other recent projects include four new high schools and the UChicago Child Development Center - Stony Island, a 13,000-square-foot daycare facility serving 124 children.
Despite its popularity, the 95th floor lounge of the Hancock building is a great way to get an overview of the city. But to see some of the great buildings in Chicago, I recommend a walking tour up Dearborn Street. It's a quick way to see many great projects in a short stretch. Start at Congress Parkway with the Harry Weese-designed federal prison, a unique 28-story high-rise that opened in 1975. There are the great buildings of Chicago's past along the way, including Burnham and Root's Monadnock, Mies van der Rohe's Federal Plaza, Walter Netsch’s Inland Steel, and many others. Walk at least as far as the river, where you'll find Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City (1964), alongside Mies' IBM building (1973).
Best Gardens or Parks
Millennium Park lives up to its billing and should not be missed. Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate and Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain set the bar for what public art should be. If you're there on a Monday, catch Downtown Sound at the Pritzker Pavilion, a free concert series throughout the summer months.
Dan Kiley's South Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago is also not to be missed. Just a few blocks south of Millennium Park, you can enter this garden off of the street, just south of the Art Institute's main entrance on Michigan Avenue. It's a great place to bring lunch and rest under the hawthorne canopies.
Going out to dinner in Chicago is a great way to get familiar with the city’s many distinct neighborhoods. My recommendation is to hop on the Blue Line to the Logan Square stop and walk to Longman and Eagle. Plan to relax with an amazing cocktail at the bar while you wait for a table at this in-demand spot. If there's time, take a walk through the square, down the boulevard, and around the neighborhood.
A more off-the-beaten-path option is Ada Street. Everything about this place is a surprise, from the understated entry, to the circuitous path back to the dining area and garden, to the menu itself. Like Longman and Eagle, they don't take reservations, but the cocktails are fantastic and you can pick out a song from their vinyl library-lined wall for the DJ to play while you wait. Afterwards, head down the street to the Hideout for great live music at Chicago's best small venue.
Head to Punch House in the Pilsen neighborhood. Located in the recently renovated historic Thalia Hall from 1890, this bar is in the basement beneath Dusek's, another fantastic new restaurant. Punch House is a lounge space focusing on handcrafted punch cocktails. Go early for a drink, eat upstairs at Dusek's, and catch a show in the theater. It's all in the same building.
If you're stuck downtown, head to The Gage. It's a lively place with a great menu and right next to Millennium Park.