Reliance Building
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Architect Daniel Burnham
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Location Chicago, Illinois   map
Date 1890 , extended to 14 floors 1894   timeline
Building Type early skyscraper, commercial office tower
 Construction System steel frame clad with terra cotta
Climate temperate
Context urban
Style Modern
Notes A key precedent for the modern skyscraper.


Photo, exterior, Reliance Building in context

Photo, exterior, close up of upper stories of Reliance Building



Elevation Drawing

Plan Drawing

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Discussion Reliance Building Commentary

"The four initial floors of the fourteen-storey Reliance Building, designed by Charles B. Atwood of Daniel Burnham's office and the structural engineer E.C. Shankland, were erected in 1890. This, the first comprehensive achievement of the system now known as Chicago construction, was repeated innumerable times in Chicago in the building boom that lasted from 1890 to 1893. It consisted of a riveted steel-frame superstructure, hollow-tile flooring on steel joists, plaster fire-proofing, perimeter bay windows filled with plate glass, steel-trussed wind bracing and bedrock concrete caissons sometimes extending for as much as 125 feet beneath the footing..."

— Kenneth Frampton and Yukio Futagawa. Modern Architecture 1851-1945. p63.

Sources on Reliance Building

Ante Glibota and Frederic Edelmann. 150 Years of Chicago Architecture. Paris: Paris Art Center, Musee-Galerie de la SEITA, 1983. NA735.C4C394. typical floor plan drawing, f4, p072.

Johnson Architectural Images. Copyrighted slides in the Artifice Collection.

John Julius Norwich, ed. Great Architecture of the World. London: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1975. eye-level exterior photo, p209. Reprint edition: Da Capo Press, April 1991. ISBN 0-3068-0436-0. — An accessible, inspiring and informative overview of world architecture, with lots of full-color cutaway drawings, and clear explanations. Available at

Leland M. Roth. A Concise History of American Architecture. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1979. ISBN 0-06-430086-2. NA705.R67 1979. exterior photo, p177.

J. William Rudd, Compiler. Historic American Buildings Survey: Chicago and Nearby Illinois Areas. Park Forest, Illinois: The Prairie School Press, 1966. NA735.C4H5. north elevation drawing, p25.

Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture, from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1986. photo, fig 786, p499. — Available at

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about Reliance Building


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