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Chicago: City of the Century
The Film and More
Special Features
Do You Know Chicago?
Decades of Immigrants
Made in Chicago
Faces in the Crowd
Eight Anarchists
Then and Now
Your Kind of Town

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Made in Chicago: The Vertical City previous 12 of 18 next


The Vertical City Two architectural practices, the balloon frame and Chicago Construction, made Chicago the world's first vertical city. Builders using the balloon frame method created a skeleton of two-by-fours covered by wooden siding. First widely used in 19th-century Chicago and still employed today, the balloon frame not only sped up the building process; it also made construction less costly.

The balloon frame was a precursor to a great Chicago innovation: the practice of attaching a façade onto a strong yet light steel frame. Though skyscrapers were born in New York, the method called Chicago Construction, developed by Chicago architects and engineers between 1880 and 1883, provided the basic structural system for building modern steel-and-glass office towers.

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