The Aqua Tower by Studio Gang Architects
Totaling over 1.9 million sf, Aqua Tower is an 82-story mixed-use high-rise that includes a hotel, apartments, condominiums, parking and offices. Unlike a tower in an open field, new towers in urban environments must negotiate small view corridors between existing buildings. In response to this, the Aqua Tower is designed to capture particular views that would otherwise be unattainable. Among the building’s notable features is the green roof terrace atop its plinth—which at 80,000 sf is one of Chicago’s largest—that contains an outdoor pool, running track, gardens, fire pits and yoga terrace.
A series of contours defined by outdoor terraces extends away from the face of the tower structure to provide views between neighboring buildings. These outdoor terraces, cantilevered up to twelve feet, differ in shape from floor to floor. The terraces inflect based on criteria such as the view, solar shading and size and type of dwelling. When viewed together, these unique terraces make the building appear to undulate, presenting a highly sculptural appearance that is rooted in function. Aqua creates a strong identity through its architecture and has become a landmark addition to the Chicago skyline.
Early and close collaboration between architect and builder, as well as the use of contemporary digital tools, allowed the variation in the shape of the floor slabs to be achieved without increasing the building’s construction timetable. The result is a high-rise tower particular to its site that allows residents to inhabit the facade of the building and the city at the same time.
“Aqua Tower was shaped by an organic, site-specific design process. Rather than starting out with the goal of creating an icon, we let the climate and views shape the building, weaving it into its surroundings and treating the building and its environment as interconnected not separate. Even though it may appear to be formally expressive, it is equal parts data and imagination.” – Jeanne Gang, Design Principal Architect
Visit the Studio Gang Architects website – here.
A landmark of modern architecture, 330 North Wabash set a standard that is still being copied by architects around the world today. It is undeniably one of the great works of "serious" architecture.
Perched along a slight bend in the Chicago River, the building takes stately to a new level. Its design manages to be all business, but not stuffy. When seen on a bright day from across the river its darkness contrasts with the bright stone and glittering reflective glass of its neighbors. But that presence only works when the weather is good. When things aren't at their peak, the building robs the area of much needed light and manages to be little more than a massive void in the sky.
Still, 330 North Wabash is considered an architectural masterpiece. It keeps no secrets. Even a quick look reveals this building's bones. You can clearly see the structural steel, the mechanical floor, and the columns that make this skyscraper possible. Unlike its new-fangled neighbors who hide their flaws beneath a skin of silver glass, this building is raw architecture out in the open.
It is also something of an engineering feat. The building had to avoid a freight rail line that brought newspaper rolls to the Chicago Sun-Times building that was once on the other side of Wabash Avenue. The City of Chicago even helped out a little with the engineering, shifting the path of Wabash Avenue slightly to allow the architect to pursue the building shape he desired.
Mies van der Rohe died before construction began. A bust of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is in the lobby to honor him.
Brandon E. Young