Chicago Landmarks

Civic Opera Building

View from North Wacker Dr.     Address: 20 N. Wacker Dr.
Year Built: 1927 - 1929
Architect: Graham, Anderson, Probst & White
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: February 5, 1998

Wacker Dr. elevation from grade A mixed-use structure, the Civic Opera Building houses both a 3,400-seat auditorium and more than half a million square feet of office and retail space. Its architecture clearly expresses its joint role as a civic monument to culture and commerce. The ornate, French Renaissance Revival-style, two-story portico and monumental pedestrian colonnade, which face Wacker Drive, are appropriate to the style and use of a grand opera house.

In contrast, the building's Art Deco-style facade facing the Chicago River is shaped like an enormous armchair; its 12-story "seat" is the opera house, its 22-story "arms" are office annexes, and its 45-story "back" is the office tower. Critics at the time referred to the building as "Insull's throne," in reference to its builder, utility magnate Samuel Insull. The interior of the opera house features a sumptuous lobby and fire curtain, both detailed by noted muralist and designer Jules Guerin.