McCormick Place

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McCormick Place is the largest convention center in the United States.[1] It is made up of four interconnected buildings sited on and near the shore of Lake Michigan, about 4 km south of downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA. McCormick Place hosts numerous trade shows, including the Chicago Auto Show, held every February.



As early as 1927, Robert R. McCormick and the newspaper he controlled, the Chicago Tribune, championed a purpose-built lakeside convention center for Chicago. In 1958, ground was broken for a $35 million facility that opened in November 1960, and was named after McCormick, who had died in 1955. The lead architect was Alfred Shaw, one of the architects of the Merchandise Mart.[2] This building included the Arie Crown Theater, designed by Edward Durrell Stone.[3] It seated nearly 5,000 people and was the second largest theater (by seating capacity) in Chicago.

The 1960 exposition hall was destroyed in a spectacular 1967 fire, despite being thought fireproof by virtue of its steel and concrete construction. At the time of the fire, the building contained highly flammable exhibits, several hydrants were shut off, and the sprinklers proved inadequate suppression. Thus the fire spread quickly and destructively, taking the life of a security guard.[4] Although many wanted to rebuild the hall on a different site, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley elected to rebuild on the foundations of the burned building. The new design of dark steel and glass, by Gene Summers of C. F. Murphy and Associates (and formerly of Mies van der Rohe's office) contrasted markedly with the white look of the structure that had burned down. On January 3, 1971, the replacement building, later called the East Building and now called the Lakeside Center, opened with a 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2) main exhibition hall. The Arie Crown Theatre sustained only minor damage in the 1967 fire, and so was incorporated into the interior of the new building. The theater, with the largest seating capacity of any active theater in Chicago (the Uptown Theatre having more seating, but currently closed), underwent major modifications in 1997 which improved its acoustics.


The North Building, located across Lake Shore Drive and completed in 1986, is connected to the East Building by an enclosed pedestrian bridge. In contrast to the dark, flat profile of the East Building, the North Building is white (as the original building was), with twelve concrete pylons on the roof which support the roof using 72 cables. The HVAC system for the building is incorporated into the pylons, which give the building the appearance of a rigged sailing ship.

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