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Rave

Big shoulders, bigger buildings

The Tribune tower, seen from the Chicago River, dates to 1925. The Tribune tower, seen from the Chicago River, dates to 1925. (Globe Staff Photo / Ellen Albanese)
Email|Print| Text size + By Ellen Albanese
Globe Staff / October 7, 2007

CHICAGO - This windy city is known as the birthplace of the skyscraper, and there's no better way to see the monumental buildings that earned that distinction than on a boat tour on the Chicago River.

On a 90-minute cruise on a Chicago's First Lady vessel, we learned that the great fire of 1871, which destroyed more than 17,000 buildings, also created a blank canvas that drew architects from around the world who competed to design the tallest and most innovative buildings of the time. Docents from the Chicago Architecture Foundation narrate the tour past structures such as the Gothic-towered Chicago Tribune building (1925); the massive Merchandise Mart (1930); the cylindrical, honeycombed Marina City (1964) with residences around the core and parking spaces on the outer edges; the spare IBM Building (1971), showcasing the modernist philosophy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; and the curved facade of 333 West Wacker Drive (1983), reflecting an array of buildings in its mirrored surface. Commentary and background information are provided for more than 50 buildings. After you disembark, visit Frank Gehry's eye-popping Jay Pritzker Pavilion (2004) at Millennium Park, proof the city's tradition of pioneering architecture continues.

Chicago's First Lady, Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, 312-902-1500, cruisechicago.com. Monday-Friday $26, weekends and holidays $28. Daily through Oct. 28, Friday-Sunday Nov. 2-18.

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