Ever since claiming the world’s first skyscraper in 1884, the Windy City has been a leader in design innovation — a tradition that continues today. Chicago architects drive eco-friendly and smart city design practices, create new ways of thinking about the relationship between people and urban spaces, and push the limitations of the sky. Among their recent accomplishments, Chicago-based architects designed the first net-zero energy skyscraper, the tallest building in the world, and the tallest building in the world designed by a female-led firm. Chicago-based firms are ranked below based on innovation, high quality, previous accolades and experience, and on their active contributions to shaping the city’s urban landscape.

Top Architects

Hirsch-MPG LLC

Howard Hirsch AIA
Andrew Myren AIA
Richard Parks AIA
David Genc AIA

Association of Licensed Architects Renovation Award

225 W Hubbard Street, Suite 500 Chicago, IL 60654

About Hirsch-MPG LLC

Hirsch-MPG LLC has completed over 600 projects since 1994. This diverse architecture and planning firm has designed highrises in Chicago and Arizona, urban master plans, and transit designs, among numerous smaller commercial and residential projects. The firm’s president and founder, Howard Hirsch, AIA LEED AP, has over 30 years of experience as an architect, designer, project manager, and land planner. He received his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and he is NCARB certified and LEED accredited. Among other awards, this firm has received a renovation award from the Association of Licensed Architects. Formerly Hirsch Associates LLC, the firm is joined by Andrew Myren AIA, Richard Parks AIA, and David Genc AIA as principals on January 1, 2018, to form Hirsch-MPG LLC.

Featured Projects

Plans for the Hubbard and Wells Towers, now under construction, consist of two adjoining buildings: a nine-story 41k-square-foot office building and a 23-story residential tower. The highrise will include 193 residential units, 6,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, and a rooftop deck with a pool. The curved glass office space will follow the elevated tracks of the Brown and Purple CTA lines, which run over the entryway to the building. Hirsch also designed the master plan for the Roosevelt Collection: a mixed-used development in the South Loop, in which an abandoned rail yard will be converted into a lifestyle center with retail and cinema space, parking, chic loft residencies, and a one-acre green space. They also acted as the Design Architect and Architect of Record for the residential components of the plan.

bKL Architecture

Thomas Kerwin
James Loewenberg

Chicago’s Friends of Downtown
Organization Best New Building Award,
AIA Mies van Der Rohe Citation of Merit Award,
Engineering News-Record Midwest Award of Merit

225 N. Columbus Drive, Suite 100, Chicago, IL 60601

About bKL Architecture

Founded in 2010 by Thomas Kerwin, with the help of James Loewenberg, bKL has a national and international focus and has completed several award-winning projects in Chicago. The firm features an open studio environment, which encourages a lively exchange of ideas between its associates. The Chicago-based firm also maintains an active office in Shanghai, designing buildings and urban plans. In 2010, bKL completed a master plan for Beijing’s central business district covering 1.5M square feet. This year, bKL’s Exhibit on Superior residential tower received the Best New Building Award from Chicago’s Friends of Downtown Organization.

Featured Projects

The design for the GEMS World Academy Lower School received the AIA 2016 Mies van Der Rohe Citation of Merit Award, along with the Engineering News-Record Midwest Award of Merit for K-12 Education designs, among other awards. The playful façade features interlacing glass and metal panels with bold colors that overlook a neighboring park. The 10-story school houses 660 students in smart classrooms that use technology to connect students to other schools throughout the world. bKL also designed the 48-story Wolf Point West — the first of the three buildings in Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Wolf Point Master Plan to be completed. The New York-based firm designed the overall master plan of the project while bKL served as the lead architecture firm behind Wolf Point West building. Located at the confluence of the Chicago River, the 509-unit luxury residential tower offers its residents views of the city, river, and lakefront, as well as luxury finishes and closet space. bKL designed the tower to achieve LEED Silver Certification which, the firm explains, exemplifies its commitment to sustainable development. The tower received the CISCO Project of the Year award for New Construction in 2016.

Lothan Vanhook DeStefano Architecture (LVDA)

Avram Lothan
James DeStefano
Mary Ann Van Hook
Connie Miller

AIA Design Awards,
AIA Award for Divine Detail

57 W Grand Avenue, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60654

About Lothan Vanhook DeStefano Architecture (LVDA)

The firm boasts two FAIA-designated architects: Founding Principal and Design Director Avram Lothan and Principal James DeStefano. James DeStefano, FAIA, has worked on commercial, residential and civic projects in the US, London, and the Middle East, totaling over 35M square feet of office buildings and 35k residential units. Beyond his design achievements, Avram Lothan, FAIA, is known for his teaching and pro bono work. Both architects are expert planners whose projects include the Illinois State Capitol Complex Master Plan, as well as several plans and studies for the development of the University of Illinois campuses. Principal in Charge Mary Ann Van Hook, AIA, utilizes her 40 years of experience in the field to oversee the quality control and contract compliance for the firm. LVDA offers planning services, building and interior design, and LEED consulting. The firm has received AIA design awards, among others. Of note, their renovation of a lecture center for the University of Illinois at Chicago received an AIA Award for Divine Detail.

Featured Projects

One South Dearborn is a 40-story office tower located in the heart of the Loop. Completed in 2005, it became the first LEED for Core and Shell Silver-rated highrise in the state. It has received the Energy Star Award every year since 2007. Its modern metal and glass exterior is complemented by a distinctive three-story glass and marble lobby and outdoor plaza covered in Italian granite. The building houses conference facilities, a fitness center, 8,000 square feet of retail space, and four floors of parking. The firm’s Roosevelt Square Redevelopment was the largest HOPE VI project in the nation to be awarded to a single developer. The project consists of phased, planned development for mixed-income residents using low- and mid-rise dwellings over a 35-city block space. Once completed, the project will include 2,441 new homes, a third of which will be Chicago Housing Authority households. The plan received the Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award by the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards.

FitzGerald Associates

Pat FitzGerald

Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago Crystal Key for Innovation and Creativity for Technical Innovation Award, ULI Chicago Vision Award

912 West Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois 60607

About FitzGerald Associates

Founded in 1919, FitzGerald Associates has been an important firm in Chicago’s history. Originally founded as Rissman & Hirschfeld Architects, Pat FitzGerald joined the firm in 1978 and was named president of the firm in 1986. Chairman and Managing Principal FitzGerald has contributed more than 20k units in Chicago, from student housing to luxury residences. In addition to architecture and interior design, the firm offers a wide range of services, such as entitlements and feasibility studies, as well as historical research and adaptive reuse planning. The firm operates under the philosophy that a design should serve both the needs the building’s occupants and its neighbors and municipalities. The firm has received several awards, such as the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago – bringing home a Crystal Key for Innovation and Creativity for Technical Innovation Award and the ULI’s Chicago Vision Award.

Featured Projects

Centrally located at the intersection of Madison Street and I-90/94, FitzGerald designed a new highrise apartment complex that will become a prominent visual fixture of Chicago’s expanding Greektown neighborhood. In addition to 492 residential units, 727 West Madison will offer street-level retail spaces, including a business center, a pool and health club, and a 400-room hotel. The building will be Chicago’s tallest building west of the Kennedy Expressway. It is also designed for LEED certification. The Millennium on LaSalle will convert an existing 13-story office building into a highly modernized smart space and include such amenities as integrated USB power sources and Bluetooth audio capabilities. The remodeled building will feature 216 apartments with 7k square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The design also adds a new 14th floor level that includes a pool, sport court, dog run, and landscaped deck.

Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

Ray Hartshorne, Jim Plunkard, Megan Zack

232 N Carpenter Street, Chicago, IL 60607

About Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

Ray Hartshorne and Jim Plunkard co-founded their own firm in 1987 in order to provide versatile design services, including architecture, planning, and interior design. Hartshorne has since designed more than 25k residential units in multifamily complexes, while Plunkard has worked on respected projects like the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel and the Green Exchange. Megan Zack, one of the firm’s three principals, also acts as Director of Sustainability. Zack is responsible for the first LEED Gold-certified apartment tower in Illinois. The firm is known for their LEED-certified sustainable design, as well as for their expertise in historic preservation and adaptive reuse.

Featured Projects

The 56-story Michigan Avenue highrise known as Essex on the Park is currently under construction and features 479 luxury rental units. This $240M project also includes the neighboring Essex Inn, which will be remodeled and expanded from 254 to 271 guestrooms. The new “Hotel Essex” will connect to the new tower and share amenities such as a restaurant, a bar, and an indoor pool and spa. HP’s Eight Eleven Uptown, a 27-story residential tower featuring 373 apartments and eight townhouses, as well as a rooftop pool and spa and landscaped deck, is under construction and expected to be ready for occupancy in 2018. The 3.4-acre site near Montrose Beach also contains a three-story podium containing a grocery store, parking, and an outdoor terrace.

Loewenberg Architects

James Loewenberg

AIA National Honor Award, FIABCI Prix d’Excellence International Award

25 N Columbus Drive #100, Chicago, IL 60601

About Loewenberg Architects

James Loewenberg, AIA, president of Loewenberg Architects, is continuing the legacy established by his father and uncle in 1919. Besides being a prominent developer and architect, Loewenberg also serves as co-CEO of Magellan Development Group, an organization responsible for many of the city’s largest development projects. One of Loewenberg’s current master plans, Lakeshore East, earned an AIA National Honor Award for excellence in urban design and the Prix d’Excellence International Award from FIABCI, otherwise known as The International Real Estate Federation.

Featured Projects

The 47-story residential tower Coast at Lakeshore East — a collaborative design between James Loewenberg and bKL Architecture’s Thomas Kerwin, FAIA — won the 2014 Design Excellence Award. The tower features continuous balconies with glass handrails that create the illusion of an all-glass exterior. The balconies offer private outdoor space, which AIA explains is “nearly unmatched” among downtown Chicago rentals. One of Loewenberg’s newest projects is the Gallery On Wells, a 39-story rental tower that boasts the “finest amenity deck in River North” and offers panoramic views of downtown Chicago. Perhaps Loewenberg’s loftiest endeavor is Lakeshore East, a $4B development spanning 28 acres. The master plan for this urban neighborhood includes nearly 5k residencies, 2M square feet of commercial space, 1,500 hotel rooms, a public park, and a proposed elementary school. Today, over one-third of the planned community has been completed.

Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB)

Chris Pemberton
Christine Carlyle
Clara Wineberg
Devon Patterson
Gary Kohn
Jay Longo
Jim Curtin
John Lahey
Mark Frisch
Martin Wolf
Peter Noone
Sheyla Conforte
Strachan Forgan
Ted Strand
Tim Stevens

2012 Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Vision Award for “Best Urban Project”
2011 National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Best in American Living Gold Award (BALA) in High-rise Multifamily Housing
2011 Emporis Skyscraper Award Top 10 in 2010 (International Buildings over 100 meters tall)
2011 Friends of Downtown Best New Residential Building
2010 CTBUH Tallest 20 in 2010, Tallest building completed in 2010 in North America
2010 Midwest Construction Award Project of the Year in Multi-Family Residential/ Hospitality

625 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 800, Chicago, IL60611

About Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB)

This architecture, interior design, and planning firm has been influential in shaping Chicago’s skyline since it was established in 1931. Currently employing over 240 design professionals, including 15 principal designers between their Chicago and San Francisco offices, SCB continues to innovate in both cities, taking on a diverse array of assignments from multi-family residential or commercial designs to urban planning and laboratory or transportation projects. In 2007, SCB designed a 62-floor tower known as 340 on the Park, which became the first residential tower in the Midwest to meet the silver LEED certification standards.

Featured Projects

The Legacy at Millennium Park, a 73-story condominium tower in Chicago’s Jewelers Row Historic District, won the Urban Land Institute’s 2012 Vision Award for “Best Urban Project,” among other distinctions. In addition to 357 residential units, this mixed-use building also incorporates an academic space for the School of Art Institute of Chicago, expanded athletic facilities for the University Club, residential parking, and ground-level retail space. The 10-story John and Kathy Schreiber Center was commissioned by Loyola University Chicago and features a design centered around a full-height glass atrium. The transparent design acts as a visual representation of the school’s focus on inclusivity and social justice. The LEED Gold building also incorporates numerous sustainable design strategies including natural ventilation and radiant heat.

Pappageorge Haymes Partners (PHP)

George Pappageorge, David Haymes

AIA Design Excellence Awards

640 North LaSalle Street, Suite 400, Chicago, Illinois 60654

About Pappageorge Haymes Partners (PHP)

This diverse firm’s projects span from single-family homes to large multi-use developments and neighborhood plans. Founded by George Pappageorge, FAIA, and David Haymes, AIA, in 1981, the firm has been influential in Chicago’s urban planning for over 30 years. Pappageorge became one of the youngest members of the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows and is currently principal-in-charge of a 200-acre, mixed-use development in the greater Pullman and Roseland Communities on the South Side. Haymes, who acts as the firm’s Chief Operations Officer, is perhaps best known for the development of One Museum Park, an all-residential skyscraper and the tallest building on the Southside of Chicago. One Museum Park is an important component of the Central Station development that converted the South Loop into a residential neighborhood.

Featured Projects

PHP’s residential complex, K2 at K Station, won the Design Excellence Award in 2015 from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). K2’s sleek design was built over an adjoining street in order to take advantage of the neighboring high-speed rail easement, above street bridge, and a highway overpass. Below the building, a three-story podium offers 16k square feet of parking and raises the entryway up to street level. The firm is currently partnering with the Hines real estate company and New Haven-based architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli to design the 60-story Wolf Point East apartment tower on one of the last remaining riverfront sites downtown. The luxury tower will offer 700 for-rent multifamily units and 3,500 square feet of retail space. It is the second phase of a three-phase Wolf Point Master Plan. Among other amenities, it will feature protected views of the south and east legs of the Chicago River.

Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill (AS+GG)

Adrian Smith
Gordon Gill
Robert Forest

111 W Monroe Street, Suite 2300, Chicago, IL 60603

About Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill (AS+GG)

AS+GG designs and develops high-performance, energy-efficient and sustainable large-scale architecture, from skyscrapers to city planning. The firm was founded in 2006 by Adrian Smith, FAIA, Gordon Gill, and Robert Forest, when the three left the prestigious Skidmore, Owings & Merrill firm, which designed the Willis Tower and the One World Trade Center. AS+GG is responsible for the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia. When completed in 2020, it will overtake the Burj Khalifa — which Smith also designed — as the tallest building in the world. In an effort to create eco-friendly globally contextual designs, Smith’s designs have used solar, wind, and geothermal energy, sensitive not only to the geography and climate of his buildings, but also to the cultural influences. His co-founder Gordon Gill maintains the philosophy of performance-based design, which has led to the world’s first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower. The firm’s third co-founder, Robert Forest, is a globally-recognized expert on the economics of sustainable design.

Featured Projects

In addition to its global work, AS+GG is involved in many public and cultural spaces throughout Chicago. The firm has been contracted to expand the current grounds of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier. The Yard, totaling 35k square feet of space, is a second theater and lobby that connects to the company’s existing theater. Known for their sustainable focus, AS +GG added daylight sensors that tint the façade in direct sunlight, a feature that reduces the heating and cooling costs for the building. The firm is also leading the overhaul of Chicago’s historic Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building of the Pullman factory site on the South Side. The vacant building, built in 1880, will become the new visitor center for the Pullman Historic District, recently designated a national monument.

Studio Gang

Jeanne Gang

American Architecture Prize Firm of the Year,
Emporis Skyscraper of the Year Award,
Architizer A+ Awards,
AIA National Honor Award for Interior Architecture

1520 W Division Street, Chicago, IL 60642

About Studio Gang

Studio Gang is an architecture and urban design collective with more than 100 architects, designers, and planners. It has offices in Chicago and New York. Among many other notable recognition, the Studio Gang received the 2017 Architizer A+ Awards and the 2017 AIA National Honor Award for Interior Architecture. The collective was founded in 1997 by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, FAIA, Architectural Review’s 2016 Architect of the Year. Gang is a prominent American architect known for her sustainable design habits and the visionary ways her projects connect communities to their environments. Gang’s two skyscraper projects — the Aqua Tower and the in-development Vista Tower — are the tallest buildings in the world designed by a female-led firm.

Featured Projects

The 82-story Aqua Tower, completed in 2010, is a massive multi-use tower combining a hotel, offices, rental apartments, condos, parking, and a green roof. The tower’s unique, wavy shape is functional as well as aesthetic. The design creates outdoor terraces meant to connect neighbors, as well as offering a vista view of Chicago and Lake Michigan. A spiral staircase connects the tower to a neighboring public park. Aqua Tower won Emporis’s Skyscraper of the Year Award in 2009. Principal Jeanne Gang is currently working with the Magellan Development Group on the Vista Tower, a luxury hotel and condo tower which is set to be Chicago’s third tallest building once completed in 2020. It is aiming for LEED Silver certification. The Tower combines three segments of different heights, enhanced by a stepped stacked frustum design. The project will also grant the Lakeshore East community improved public access to the Chicago River.