This building, which replaced a 1960s concrete box referred to as “the mistake on the lake,” is now the oldest section of the McCormick Place complex. It is comprised of lightweight steel and glass, and at one time also featured open access to water for viewers to experience the lake and the lakefront park in addition to the south end of Burnham Harbor. It is also the world’s largest space-frame structure, and a feat of engineering in its day.
Architects Gene Summers and Helmut Jahn were students of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose work was filled with various published studies for a convention hall for Chicago. While the end result of the Lakeside Center of McCormick Place II is not a direct copy of the works of Mies, many of the concepts, ideas, spatial arrangements and site placement, brick plinth and volumetric spaces are a result of the much noted and highly published studies.
In the past decades, a number of large additions have been made to the McCormick Place complex. The Lakeside building is less frequently used, except for the Arie Crown Theater. The large convention hall space of the main hall has a permanent partition wall sub-dividing one of Chicago’s great and vast interior spaces. Talk in the past has also turned to demolition and replacement.
Preservation Chicago believes this is one of Chicago’s great mid- century modern buildings. It features two levels of expansive exhibition halls, one on the main level sheathed in glass with others hidden in the lower level of the building. These could be repurposed for a variety of functions including Chicago’s most expansive and comprehensive field house, recreational center and cultural center – with the large glass rooms housing indoor tennis courts and basketball courts in natural daylight, along with a running track and other amenities.