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From affectionate nicknames such as “The Chill” and “Chi-town,” to literary and historical references such as poet Carl Sandburg’s “The City of Big Shoulders” and “The Big Onion,”  Chicago, Illinois, has been the bearer of many-a-moniker over the years.  Of the countless coined references earned by this beloved midwest city, perhaps one of the lesser-known and more historically suitable references is the “Birthplace of Modern Architecture.”

Solider Field

Solider Field

Home to such masterminds as Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van Der Rohe and countless others,  the Chicago area is known throughout the world as a mecca in the architectural community.  Around every corner, professionals as well as enthusiasts can find themselves standing on the original site — and often even in the shadows — of iconic structures such as Soldier Field, Dearborn Station, The Henry B. Clark House, and even the very first skyscraper.  In fact, the city’s architecture has been so “cutting edge” throughout history, that the commercial, “form-follows-function” style of structures that were representative of the 1890’s era was dubbed “Chicago School.”  Only fifty years later, the “Second Chicago School” emerged from this hallowed ground as well.

The AIA 2014 National Convention to be held this year in Chicago

The AIA 2014 National Convention to be held this year in Chicago

With all this history and community gathered in one place, it only makes sense that Chicago will play host this summer to the American Institute of Architects’ 2014 National Convention.  AIA is a leading professional membership association made up of over 83,000 emerging and seasoned professionals and partners.  The schedule for this colossal three-day event (June 26-28th) is still being kept under wraps, but judging from the convention’s traditional list of top-notch keynotes (last year, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie were among the heralded speakers), combined with the energy and passion of Chicago’s longstanding architectural community is sure to make this year’s National Convention nothing short of epic.

Being the namesake of two schools of architecture already, Chicago’s trials and trends are ever present on the radar of professionals around the world.  From neo-classical to post-modernism, from traditional to cutting edge technologies, examples of all architectural styles can be found here in the heart of the Midwest.  Over the last half-decade, one of the emerging trends that has caused quite a buzz is the growing popularity of retractable structures in both commercial and residential structures.

Originally popularized by their use in large sports stadiums such as the Midwest’s own Lucas Oil Stadium, retractable structures have come a long way in only a few years.   These highly customizable and ever-more affordable technological marvels aren’t just for stadium roofs anymore!  They can be seen popping up as skylights, rooftop bars, five-star restaurants, greenhouses, and even over residential pools and patios!   Because they offer indoor comfort with outdoor freedom, they’re particularly beneficial in the Midwest where a year-round outdoor atmosphere is desired in a less-than-agreeable year-round climate.

American Junkie- The Attic

The Attic at American Junkie

The Wit Hotel is a prime example of one of the Chicago businesses taking full advantage of the benefits of retractable structures.  “Roof”, their new retractable rooftop, creates a usable space which will become the home of their traditional, late-night bar.  Because it can quickly open and close, the bar can stay open in inclement weather, and the rooftop space can be used year-round — a win-win for this popular hotel destination in Chicago’s theater district.

I/O Urban Roofscape at Godfrey Hotel

I/O Urban Roofscape at Godfrey Hotel

Restaurants are also incorporating the benefits of the retractable structure option into their business plans.  American Junkie, a fairly new and highly-acclaimed restaurant geared toward the young professionals crowd in the River North district, has the online reviewers buzzing with excitement.  The “Attic,” American Junkie’s retractable rooftop club, features an open-air indoor/outdoor dance floor and bar and a pristine view of the Windy City’s skyline.

News of the benefits of retractable structures travels quickly in this city– so it’s no wonder that other businesses are jumping on the bandwagon.  The Godfrey Hotel is the latest contender in the race for the biggest and brightest retractable attraction with their urban “Roofscape.”