These frustrations were the impetus behind the creation of the FanGuide Tour & Audio Companion iPhone apps by Prairie Design Group. I recently had an opportunity to test the Chicago Loop Architecture Guide [US$2.99, iTunes Link], and wish that this app had been available a few years back when I was visiting the Windy City.
Featuring an elegant and easy-navigated user interface, the Chicago Loop Architecture Guide provides six tours, each with anywhere from 5 to 9 stops. The tours range in length from 30 minutes to a full hour, and stops for food, coffee, or photography can stretch out the time. Tapping on a globe icon during a tour provides a Google map view of a stop, overlaid with a photo of the building and arrows that point you to the previous or next stop. You don't need a cellular connection to use the app; there are also self-contained offline maps that are more than sufficient to provide you with location information.
It's the details at each stop that are of interest to the architecture buff. Numerous photos of each building are located at the top of the page and can be navigated with a simple flick. Some of the buildings (the Willis Tower, for example) have a bonus video included in the content. Each location includes an audio guide that describes unique details about the building being viewed, as well as an information link containing the address, latitude-longitude, architect, year built, website link (if applicable), and information about visiting the site.
I was personally enchanted by some of the close-up pictures of architectural details, since I will often use a zoom lens on a digital camera to capture those features myself. The architectural facts are supplemented by a "Did You Know?" fun fact that supplies unusual information about the construction, the architect, or the building itself.
Not a fan of Chicago Loop architecture? The FanGuide series also includes apps for Los Angeles Modern, Oak Park Prairie School, and River Forest Prairie School architecture, with guides in the works for Chicago River and Palm Springs Modern architectural styles.
Since it's so close to Christmas, you might want to consider purchasing these apps for the architecture buff in your life, or at least point that person to this post so they can get an idea of the detail and clean design of the FanGuide tour apps. Be sure to take a look at the gallery below for more pictures of the guide in action.