The Chicago Federal Center is a three-building complex and plaza designed by Mies van der Rohe and built between 1959 and 1974. Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the Federal Center is one of the most important post-War modernist complexes in the federal government’s portfolio.  In recognition of the architectural and historical significance of the grouping, the General Services Administration decided to list the complex on the National Register of Historic Places.  Harboe Architects was selected to prepare the nomination for the complex. The complex includes the Dirksen Federal Courthouse (1964), the Loop Post Office (1973) and the Kluczynski Federal Building (1974).  In the plaza is a stabile sculpture, “Flamingo,” by Alexander Calder (1974). Mies’ design for the complex was the epitome of his distinctive style of planning and design and set precedents for later federal developments.  Less than fifty years old when nominated, the complex was of exceptional significance, allowing it to be listed prior to the fifty year mark.  

chicago federal center

Exterior Photos by Leslie Schwartz

Interior Photos by Carol Highsmith

Project Information

Title Chicago Federal Center
Work Completed National Register Nomination; Building Preservation Plans; Plaza Restoration; Post Office Wood Paneling Restoration
Date Completed NR Nomination, 2009; Building Preservation Plans, 2011; Plaza Restoration, 2012; Post Office Paneling, 2017
Client General Services Administration
Location Chicago, Illinois
Architect of Record Ghafari Associates (Plaza Restoration/BPPs); AECOM (Post Office Paneling Restoration)

Harboe Architects was also the preservation architect working with Ghafari Associates on the restoration of the Chicago Federal Center Plaza, including the Flamingo sculpture, which was completed in 2012.  In January 2011, we completed Building Preservation Plans for two of the Federal Center buildings, the Loop Post Office and John C. Kluczynski Federal Building. These plans included a history of the complex, assessment of historic integrity and material condition, as well as recommended treatment options. Harboe Architects continued work at the Federal Center in 2016 with the restoration of the wood paneling in the Post Office. This work was completed in early 2017.