Public Art and Architecture’s
Ideal Partnership


It was an early Saturday morning, just before the sunrise and crowds fell upon Chicago. A woman had come all the way from Iceland to photograph Cloud Gate. I often think about what this installation means to the people that visit. It is a site that is frequently overrun with the selfie crowd, and the same shots—app filters aside—are constantly recycled on social media.


Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate, 2006. Millennium Park. Photo by Lauren Whitney.


But many people have a deeper appreciation for Cloud Gate. And the common thread for visitors is wanting a fulfilling experience in their lives. For some, this means simply visiting a site to check a proverbial box. For others, seeing something in-person is the best way to understand and to develop a personal and unique interpretation of that object’s importance. This is why some people go to great lengths to visit Cloud Gate and other public art pieces.


Pablo Picasso, Chicago Picasso, 1967, Daley Plaza.


As someone who identifies first as an architectural photographer, photographing, documenting, and researching public art are critical for me. This curiosity began in 1999 while observing the Cows on Parade show in Chicago. However, I discovered an urgency to document public art when learning of Sachio Yamashita’s murals throughout Chicago. The murals are unfortunately gone, and few photographs exist. It was at that moment that photographing public art became just as important as the architecture that surrounds them.

I also have long been fascinated by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, also held in Chicago. The fair introduced new concepts on how architecture and art could collaborate, along with many other new inventions and purposes.

Alexander Calder’s Flamingo—a favorite of mine—is an example of the ideal relationship between public art and architecture. The perfectly placed stabile is surrounded by three Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed buildings of different proportions. The relationship between the installation and buildings is harmonious and iconic. I took an absurd number of images of the Flamingo; the shots vary significantly, yet I still have the urge to reshoot it whenever I have a chance.


Alexander Calder, Flamingo, 1974, Federal Plaza.


I encourage you to visit the installations/works in this portfolio and create your own personal experiences.


All photos by Lauren Whitney.


A Chicagoland native, Lauren Whitney has been a freelance architectural photographer since 2009. Photographing architecture is not just her passion, but also her purpose and responsibility.


Studio Gang Architects, Peoples Gas Education Pavilion, 2010,
Lincoln Park Zoo.



Jerkface and Owen Dippie, Robin Williams, 2018,
2047 N. Milwaukee Ave .



Joan Miró, Miró's Chicago, 1981, Brunswick Plaza.



Victor Ving and Lisa Beggs, Greetings from Chicago, 2015,
2226 N. Milwaukee Ave.



Magdalena Abakanowicz, Agora, 2006, Grant Park.



Oscar Romero, Lady of Guadalupe, 1998, 16th Street.



N ever 2501, The Buckingham, 2015, 59 E. Van Buren St.



Marc Chagall, The Four Seasons, 1974, 10 S Dearborn St.



Lorado Taft, Fountain of the Great Lakes, 1913, Art Institute of Chicago South Stanley McCormick Memorial Court.



Kerry James Marshall, Rushmore, 2017,

Chicago Cultural Center Garland Court.

Jaume Plensa, Crown Fountain, 2004, Millennium Park.




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