Frequently regarded as ?a study in geometric perfection?, the Federal Center in the city of Chicago is the site of several of the city?s significant government branches. It all began in 1960 when the U.S. General Services Administration decided to build a new office compound at the heart of Chicago?s Loop District which was envisioned to gather 30 different government agencies that used to be very much dispersed in several parts of the Windy City. It was an enormous project which is why the government decided to tap into the expertise of not just one, but four architectural firms. Mies Van der Rohe, who became famous for his modernist works, was assigned as the project?s head designer. He worked with Schimdt, Garden and Erickson; A. Epstein and Sons; and C.F. Murphy Associates.
Initially, a simple blueprint composed of two similar-looking towers was put forward. However, the final output included not only the twin towers that would hold the offices of the Justice Department and Federal Courts and the Treasury and Defense Departments, but also a stand-alone Post Office structure due to logistical requirements.
The area of the court house was inaugurated first in 1964. When the old court house was torn down in 1966, the construction of the other structures quickly commenced. The brand new post office debuted in 1973 followed by the groundbreaking of the federal building in 1974. In 1969, the courthouse was renamed in honor of past Illinois senator Everett Dirksen. The Federal Building also took a new name in 1975 to pay tribute to Illinois congressman John C. Kluczynski. The late congressman died while serving his constituents.
To some, the minimalist route that the architects took in creating the Chicago Federal Center, primarily utilizing glass and steel, may look really basic, but it is definitely a sight to behold. The complex spans a total area of two city blocks. The 42-level Kluczynski Federal Building features an expansive office space summing up to 1.2 million square feet. It has a total altitude of 562 feet. Its sister tower, the Dirksen Building is shorter with 30 stories but is bigger in terms of total office space with 1.4 million square feet. The Dirksen Building housed 15 bi-level courtrooms are found at its topmost ten stories when it was built and additional courtrooms were constructed during the 1990s. The post office building is a simple one level structure.
Chicago?s Federal Center exterior was made with protruding I-beam mullions cladded with graphite-dark paint. This is complemented with bronze-hued glass panels bordered with lustrous aluminum and segmented by steel spandrels which are also painted in graphite black color.
A dynamic piece of sculpture can be found outside the Chicago Federal Center called ?The Flamingo? made by Alexander Calder. It towers at 53 feet and its vivid red color stands out set against the graphite black structure at its background.