Chicago Federal Center Plaza

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Chicago, IL
United States
Chicago Federal Center Plaza

Also known as Federal Plaza, this urban square unifies Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s complex of three buildings of varying scales: the mid-rise Everett McKinley Dirksen Building, the high-rise John C. Kluczynski Building, and the single-story Post Office building. The granite tiles of the plaza continuously flow into the glazed lobbies of these International style, glass curtain-wall edifices, visually and physically connecting the interior and exterior spaces. Low, rectangular granite benches and raised planters define and edge the plaza, while a square planting area with four deciduous trees offers shade for several additional benches. Alexander Calder’s iconic red sculpture, the 53-foot “Flamingo,” adds vibrant color to the black and grey pavement. The piece was commissioned by the Government Services Administration and installed in 1974 to great fanfare, unveiled following a parade celebrating Calder’s work, with the artist sitting atop a circus wagon pulled by 40 horses. Associated architects that have played a role in the complex’s long history from 1959 to 1974 include Schmidt, Garden & Erickson; C.F. Murphy Associates; and A. Epstein & Sons. The plaza is home to a regular farmers market and is a frequent site for political gatherings.