Based on sheer size alone with 4,000,000 square feet of floor size, the Merchandise Mart, or shortly called the Merch Mart, is one of the most remarkable structures in Chicago located at the northern part of the Chicago River in the middle of Wells and Orleans streets. The building is the brainchild of visionary company Marshall Field and Company which commissioned the firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White to centralize Chicago?s whole sale goods industry. The Merchandise Mart is so big that it has its own zip code (60654).
The design of Merchandise Mart was meant to create ?city within a city? and it did not fail. The humongous commercial structure spans two city blocks and has 25 floors with 13.6 kilometers of corridors. When it was completed in 1931, it was the largest building in the world but was overtaken after the completion of the Pentagon in Washington D.C. in 1943. It is still one of the largest commercial buildings in the world ranking at 36th with the Dubai International Airport topping the list.
In terms of architectural aesthetic, the Merchandise Mart is an art-deco style building which fuses design elements of three different structures ? the warehouse, the department store and the skyscraper. Majority of the building was patterned after the warehouse fitting as it is the epicenter of Chicago?s wholesale goods business. The building can be accessed at a pedestrian level with large windows framed with bronze which is typical across many department stores. The skyscraper component is the central structure which is a 25-storey tower. Terracotta statues of fifty six American Indian chiefs forming a circle at the buildings zenith crowns the structure and was designed to be seen from the neighboring skyscrapers.
Another interesting installation within the perimeters of the Merchandise Mart is the Merchant?s Hall of Fame consisting of eight pillars with sculptures of the heads of the most influential and famous American entrepreneurs such as Marshall Field and Frank Woolworth. This project was spearheaded by Joseph Kennedy, father of assassinated US President John F. Kennedy, who bought the building from Marshall Field after the latter?s business declined in 1945.
Inside, guests will be greeted by 17 murals depicting the 14 countries of origin of the products sold at Merchandise Mart.
Just like other great buildings in American great cities such as the Empire State Building in New York, the Merchandise Mart is beautifully lighted at night with the colors changing depending on the occasion being celebrated ? pink for Cancer Awareness Month, red and green during the Yuletide season and orange for Halloween and Thanksgiving.