Two architectural practices, the balloon frame and Chicago School of Architecture, made Chicago the world's first vertical city. Builders using the balloon frame method created a skeleton of two-by-fours covered by wooden siding, leading quickly to the practice of attaching a façade onto a strong yet light steel frame, known as the Chicago School of Architecture. The Home Insurance Building, built in 1885 and designed by William Le Baron Jenney, signified the "Chicago skeleton" style of building, and the nine-story structure took the title as the first skyscraper in the world. The growth of skyscrapers revolutionized urban life because with higher buildings larger numbers of people could live and work in limited areas, allowing growth previously unimaginable. Not purely utilitarian, Chicago boasted buildings designed by some of the most talented architects in the world by Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Henry Hobson Richardson, and Frank Lloyd Wright, each contributing to the city's visions for the future with auditoriums, department store buildings, and the first modern city plan.
In 1909, a local merchant organization commissioned Burnham to design a new and modern city. The Chicago Plan proposed the straightening of the Chicago River, the development of recreational parks, the reclamation of the waterfront, the creation of a civic center, and massive reconstruction of Michigan Avenue, a street Ben Hecht referred to as, "a street of joyous Caligulas and Neros, with here and there a Ghengis Khan, and Attila." Hecht's attitude towards the products of the architectural labor speaks of a disillusionment that came with the mass production and commodification of modern life. Civility seemed to be less important than technological and capitalist progress, and a look at the industry that built Chicago could justify this opinion.