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Architectural Spotlight

A View From a Wave: The Aqua Tower

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This spring ‘Aqua’ an 82 story mixed-use residential tower in the Lakeshore East development in downtown Chicago will open for business. The tower can be found on the 200 block of North Columbus drive in an area that is pretty dense with other skyscrapers.

The building itself is a relatively simple glass box structure that isn’t much to shout about, however the building is wrapped with a series of balconies that flow in and out of the tower similar to waves and the striated limestone outcroppings that are often found in the topography of the Great Lakes region. The Architect Jeanne Gang, cited the the limestone as an inspiration for the balconies.

In some case the balconies stretch out as far as 12 feet from the building itself to allow residents to capture views of the city around and below them. While designed to look good and differentiate the building from the other glass boxes the balconies were refined to maximize solar shading.

The building also has a number of other efficient features that include rainwater collection systems and energy efficient lighting. The tower base also has a green roof.

In an increasingly dense city like Chicago, views from a new tower must be negotiated between existing buildings. Aqua tower considers criteria such as views, solar shading and function to derive a vertical system of contours that gives the structure its sculptural form. Its vertical topography is defined by its outdoor terraces that gradually change in plan over the length of the tower. These terraces offer a strong connection to the outdoors and allow inhabitants to occupy the building facade and city simultaneously. S

The roof terraces added an extra element of complication to construction. As each wave is different, so too is each floor plate in the tower. (what you didn’t think that they just stuck them on did you?) This made the construction process more complicated then your standard glass box. The building has also had some other economic complications, originally Strategic Hotels & Resorts was to have been a major tenant with a plan to purchase 15 floors in the building to expand the neighbouring Fairmont Hotel across the street, but the good ol recession put a stop to that and the company cancelled its contact in 2008. Sales of the residential properties have good good however and on the Aqua website there are only about 23 residential units up for sale. S

Architect of Record: Loewenberg & Associates
Owner: Magellan Development
Program: Hotel and Residential High-rise with retail and commercial spaces
Size: 1.9 m SF including parking, 823 feet high


4 Responses to “A View From a Wave: The Aqua Tower”

  1. It appears that the folks over at DesignApplause liked our linked post so much that they decided to reuse it!

    Posted by Dan | 30/09/2010, 9:33 pm


  1. [...] to Vällingby Parkstad in Stockholm Sweden. The concave side of the tower is reminiscent of the Aqua Tower in Chicago with its undulating balconies but the rest of the building strikes out its own [...]

  2. [...] think Bjarke Ingles Mountain Dwellings, and others have featured contoured balconies like the Aqua building this building will be the first to combine the two if completed in [...]

  3. [...] think Bjarke Ingles Mountain Dwellings, and others have featured contoured balconies like the Aqua building this building will be the first to combine the two if completed in [...]

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