Thanks in large part to the legacy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose appointment as director of architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology in 1938 would transform Chicago’s skyline up and down the lakefront for decades to come, the city is a haven of modernist architecture. Some of it comes from Mies himself; a lot of it comes from people who closely or not-so-closely ran with the International style he pioneered as it evolved over the years.
You can buy into a Mies for not that much money (though the HOA fees are not trivial), or a building from one of the many architects who followed in his footsteps, famous or obscure. Like condos in his buildings, they tend to be high-rise homes with great Lake Michigan views through lots of glass, flexible open-plan spaces, at better-than-you-think price points with fairly high HOA dues. Here’s a sample of the skyline on the North and South lakefront.
For instance: here’s a two-bed, two-bath, 1,200 square-foot condo in the master’s own 1949 Promontory building on the lakefront in Hyde Park for just $125,000. The catch: HOA fees are $1,093 a month, so you’d most likely be paying considerably more in fees than on the mortgage. The upshot? It’s a well-maintained Mies van der Rohe unit in a great neighborhood with heated parquet floors, an important piece of architectural history.
Down the street in Hyde Park is another starchitect building, an early work by I.M. Pei, the 1959 University Park Condos. It’s neither lakefront nor all that high a story, but it has a gorgeous, green view from its position in the middle of the neighborhood, with the center of the University of Chicago campus a couple blocks south and the main shopping and eating strip a couple blocks north. HOA dues are $652 for this one-bed, one-bath, which includes parking.
If Aqua’s curves are too sensuous for you, here’s a similar idea rendered in blocky beige sorta-brutalism. Inside is much friendlier: a bright, open duplex with the excellent views the building’s angles promise, giving this high-floor one-bedroom, two-bath unit a lot of light through the living area’s floor-to-ceiling windows. With the bedroom stacked on top, the views are similarly good. It’s not a large unit, just 765 square feet, but that keeps the HOA dues down at $648 a month.
Yes, you can get a stone corner fireplace in a 30th floor condo, if you move into The Tiara (yes, The Tiara). It’s spectacularly 1965, with broad views of Lake Michigan, which it practically sits on and sort of mirrors, a bit awkwardly, with stone and aqua colors throughout. At 1,200 square feet with two beds and two baths, it’s a big space, much of which is devoted to its generous living area, and for the space the dues aren’t too bad at $1,181 a month.
If Lake Point Towers are too pricey or too Navy Pier-y for you, Park Tower offers a similar feel with similar lake proximity for a lot less—like this two bed, two bath, 1,250 square-foot condo with a curvy 180-degree lakefront and skyline view that creates a stunning living area. Built in 1973, it has lots of recent updates, like dual thermal-pane glass and USB outlets in the kitchen. And in each bathroom? A “Cadet 3 commode [you can flush a bucket of golf balls!]” That’s gracious living.