The History and Architecture of Chicago’s Adler Planetarium

June 15, 2014


When you go out to the end of Museum Campus, an unusually shaped building stretches out to the lakefront. It seems to be a mausoleum with its stony exterior, arched dome, and lack of windows. But with a pointed half-circle of steel and glass surrounding it, this building looks more like a space ship. This spectacular
structure is the art deco Adler Planetarium. What goes on inside is nothing short of amazing, with simulations of the stars via the latest in projection technology. And the architecture of the building itself is worth some attention.

Architecture Ernest A. Grunsfeld designed the building in 1930. You may not have heard of him because his specialty was actually modernist homes, not cultural buildings. But for the Alder Planetarium, named after businessman Max Adler, Grunsfeld won a prestigious award, and his design has stood the test of time. The 12-sided structure topped with a dome communicates its unique character through its unusual shape. The pink and grey quality of the textured stone blends into the earthy ground while providing a contrast with the blue of the lake and sky around.

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