photo: courtesy of Prairie Avenue Bookshop
A Mecca for architecture buffs that's pleasant enough for the blueprint-allergic, the Prairie Avenue Bookshop is the largest architectural bookstore in the world. The mini-museum of sorts features design ornaments and furniture from 20th Century heavyweights like Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. Even more impressive is its inventory, more than 14,000 titles compiled by prominent historians and professors serving as a standard bibliography for architects, academics and bibliophiles.
Born in the early 1960s as headquarters of the Prairie School Press and subsequent preservation movement, the shop brought together the forefathers of Chicago's indigenous building styles and the historians who loved them. As the press expanded from a small imprint to an industry touchstone, so the shop grew and relocated to Printer's Row and then, in 1995, to its current location. It's become one of the most respected independent book stores in the country, running a worldwide mail order service and hosting frequent book signings.
If you have even a passing interest in aesthetics, the magazine rack and selection of fancy coffee table books will keep you busy. From there you can move up the stairs to the mass-market titles and textbooks, then to the out-of-print titles and signed first editions. Pore over your findings at the reading space's massive Scottish bankers table, which could make anyone feel like a master builder.
Centerstage Reviewer: Justin Sondak