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Old March 18th, 2006, 09:49 PM   #1
spyguy
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CHICAGO: Aqua (251 m/ 823 ft/ 83 floors)

This is a new proposal for Chicago and part of the Lakeshore East complex (see thread here ). But this tower is significant enough in both height and design that I think it needs its own thread.

Aqua
Architect: Studio Gang Architects
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
Construction Begins: 2006

Renderings:







Description:
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 fašade and city simultaneously. The result is a highly sculptural building when viewed obliquely that transforms into a slender rectangle from further away. Its powerful form suggests the limestone outcroppings and geologic forces that shaped the great lakes region.



Here is what Blair Kamin from the Chicago Tribune had to say about it:

Aqua could be Chicago's most sensuous skyscraper

By Blair Kamin

Tribune architecture critic
Published March 12, 2006

Hold your breath, Chicago, and hope that the downtown housing boom doesn't go bust.

Architect Jeanne Gang, one of the city's rising design stars, has shaped a dazzling 83-story residential tower that looks like a hipper version of Bertrand Goldberg's twin corncobs at Marina City. Rippling like waves beyond the tower's glass face, its undulating concrete balconies promise to give this city of sober right angles its most sensuous, curvaceous skyscraper yet.

The $300 million tower is called Aqua, not because it will be painted that color, but because Gang and the marketing people agreed that the name evokes both the fluidity of the building's form and its lakefront location. The tower is to be built along Upper Columbus Drive, on the site of the old golf course where the big Lakeshore East development is rising west of Lake Shore Drive and south of the Chicago River. As fresh conceptually as it is visually, Aqua marks a welcome departure from the mediocrity of most new downtown high-rises, including those at Lakeshore East.

Time for praise

Ironically, Aqua's co-developer and architect of record is Jim Loewenberg, who has blighted River North with high-rises such as One Superior Place, a 52-story concrete tombstone. Because he has been on the receiving end of endless grief for these monstrosities, he now deserves credit for an act of enlightened patronage.

Loewenberg took a leap of faith by naming Gang, who has never completed a high-rise, as the project's design architect. She has rewarded him with a tower that does much more than slap a hot architect's name on just another piece of real estate.

It has the same intelligence and elegance of her smaller-scale work, which includes a titanium-clad community center in Chinatown and an open-air community theater in Rockford whose roof opens like the petals of a flower. Now we have to see if her innovative concept can survive the translation into reality.

Pending the wrap-up of financing arrangements, final city approvals and the requisite number of advance sales, Loewenberg is scheduled to break ground on Aqua in October. The target completion date is 2009. The tower, which will sit atop a broad, two-story base with ground-level shops, is to contain a hotel, rental apartments, condominiums and penthouses. While its inner structure and basic shape -- an extruded rectangle supported by a concrete core and columns -- is entirely conventional, its outward appearance is anything but.

Gang, who heads the firm Studio/Gang/Architects, based her design on the idea of making "bumps" in the building's exterior. Why? Simple: By extending balconies as much as 12 feet beyond Aqua's glass walls, she strives to give its inhabitants, particularly those in the tower's middle and lower sections, views that otherwise would be blocked by the dense forest of surrounding high-rises. People who live about halfway up Aqua's east side, for example, not only will get the expected lake panorama. They'll also be able to look southward and snag an unexpected view of Frank Gehry's snaking BP Bridge in Millennium Park.

The bumps also were tweaked to provide appropriate sun-shading (those on the south are deeper than those on the north) and to accommodate living patterns. Gang placed the balconies outside living rooms rather than bedrooms, for example.

It's what Gang did with the bumps, however, that offers the tantalizing possibility that her tower will be a work of art. She transformed them into a series of curving motifs that sweep up the sides of the tower like the voluptuous folds of drapery in an ancient Greek sculpture. One of these motifs is roughly S-shaped, curving like an ocean wave. Another bulges from thin to thick to thin, suggesting the moundlike shape of an ocean swell.

New heights

Gang combined the motifs into a larger sculptural order that is continuous and flowing, not a series of unrelated chunks. With it, she creates a new kind of verticality -- not the mountainous masses of 1920s setback skyscrapers, but something more like the limestone outcroppings found along the Great Lakes. Their stacked geologic strata offer the same intensely rich imagery found in this design: towers within a tower, all rising upward to form a sublime whole.

Interestingly, this whole will change depending on the vantage point from which you see it. From close-up oblique angles, its sensuous concrete bulges will seize the eye. From farther away, it will appear thinner, glassier and more rectilinear. This raises the possibility of a tower with an alluring inner tension: the steel-and-glass box of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe versus the anti-Miesian twin corncobs of Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City, the rational versus the organic.

Yet the tower could be undercut by that tension if its undulating balconies come off as mere appendages to its conventionally shaped living quarters. At Marina City, there's no disconnect between the pie-shaped apartments and Goldberg's overall geometry. The apartments can also be understood as petals of a flower while Marina's concrete cores form the equivalent of the flower's stem.

Computer-age update

While it's unclear if Aqua will live up to this standard, it can be stated with certainty that the tower represents a computer-age update of Goldberg's mid-20th Century masterpiece at Marina City. Goldberg repeated that flower petal pattern on all of his apartment floors to keep the design economical. At Aqua, at least in theory, the computer will allow the perimeter of every floor to be different without busting the budget. To create the balconies, contractors will use a global positioning system to shape the formwork for the light gray (not aqua) concrete. (There will be a hint of aqua, however, in the blue-green tint of the tower's windows.)

As enticing as all this sounds, Aqua cannot be evaluated as an isolated work of architectural sculpture. It will be the signature statement for one of the largest parcels being developed in an American downtown, a 28-acre city within a city that is growing, somewhat oddly, at the bottom of a pit formed by the surrounding network of triple-deck streets. The tower also will be rising to the east of Illinois Center, that bleak expanse of lifeless outdoor plazas and mediocre high-rises such as the Aon Center and Two Prudential Plaza. The question is whether Lakeshore East will become integrated with the rest of the city or isolated from it.

A good blend

Fortunately, Gang's design does more integrating than isolating. She shifts the tower's base slightly southward from the location suggested by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's master plan for Lakeshore East. That enabled her to create a pedestrian passageway that will effectively extend Lake Street eastward, linking the Loop and Lakeshore East. A sculpted switchback stair will lead from Upper Columbus to Lakeshore East's handsome contemporary park and its dynamic curving pathways. The park's designer is Houston-based landscape architect James Burnett.

Still, city planners need to look hard at whether Gang's tower would loom over Upper Columbus. It's nearly 828 feet tall, with very little setback. She and Loewenberg will be asking city planners to let them build more than 100 feet taller than the maximum height recommended in the master plan. On the other hand, their tower appears more slender than the one Skidmore sketched. That trade-off seems reasonable in light of City Hall's new emphasis on tall thin "point towers" rather than bulky hulks. But when it comes to the quality of public space, you can never be too careful.

There are risks, too, in the quality of the exposed concrete that will go a long way toward determining this tower's architectural presence. While no one should realistically expect a residential high-rise to have the silky-smooth, hyper-expensive concrete of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, the kind of rough-hewn concrete you see in 1960s Brutalist buildings like 55 W. Wacker Drive could destroy the delicacy and flow that make Gang's drawings so appealing.

As the project progresses, there inevitably will be tensions between art and economics. If art wins, Chicago is in for a striking tower -- one that represents a firm break from timid postmodernism and is every bit as exciting as Santiago Calatrava's drill bit-shaped, but still-unfinanced, Fordham Spire.

Just keep holding your breath and hoping.
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Old March 18th, 2006, 10:39 PM   #2
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Intresting the tower looks like it has a skin infection inthe renderings...but i like it,its different,its takes the balconies and makes them intresting instead of the typical dull square balconies...i truly believe chicago will surpass new york in skyscraper architecture.
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Old March 18th, 2006, 10:56 PM   #3
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Interesting. I like it! Has a sort of weird liquidy look to it. Very eyecatching since first you think it's just a normal boxy building but then you say "wait a second..."

It reminds me of a proposal I saw once for a tower in Dubai that has a similar aproach:

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Old March 18th, 2006, 11:43 PM   #4
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Check out the Sunday 3/19/06 Chicago Tribune Real Estate section for the new ad for Aqua. Its the best rendering I've seen so far. Also VIP list at www.lakeshoreeast.com/aqua .
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Old March 19th, 2006, 12:37 AM   #5
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WOW!!! Quite original and futuristic project and the name of Aqua Tower itself speaks for itself, the design in the shape of wave is very expressive
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Old March 19th, 2006, 01:50 AM   #6
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It's ingenious that they could make this striking design simply by varying the balconies but by still keeping a simple rectangular structure.
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Old March 19th, 2006, 03:25 PM   #7
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Interesting design, I like the wave shapes.
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Old March 19th, 2006, 03:47 PM   #8
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WOW, Stunning !!!!
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Old March 19th, 2006, 04:01 PM   #9
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impressive and fabulous design. I really like it.
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Old March 19th, 2006, 05:21 PM   #10
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This one is definitely great. It and 340 will pick up the slack for the rest of LSE.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 05:43 AM   #11
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The more I look at it and visualize it in LSE the more it becomes one of my favorite proposed towers in recent past.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 06:50 PM   #12
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is this just a pipe dream or is it under construction... i hope for the latter
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Old March 20th, 2006, 07:07 PM   #13
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My gosh! Chicago is beginning to seem like an American Dubai. Aqua is a very unique tower and a magnificent addition to the ever-expanding Chicago skyline.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 07:24 PM   #14
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Chicago like Dubai?!? , its more like Dubia is trying to be like chicago and its skyline,is more like it!
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Old March 20th, 2006, 11:16 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by godblessbotox
is this just a pipe dream or is it under construction... i hope for the latter
Proposal. Sales start April 1st I believe.
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Old March 21st, 2006, 12:17 AM   #16
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Sweeter then Splenda.
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Old March 21st, 2006, 12:30 AM   #17
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wow, thats a very nice design
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Old March 21st, 2006, 01:41 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicagotom
Check out the Sunday 3/19/06 Chicago Tribune Real Estate section for the new ad for Aqua. Its the best rendering I've seen so far. Also VIP list at www.lakeshoreeast.com/aqua .
Here is the high-res rendering from Sunday's Tribune, scanned by chickenbone over at SSC (thanks man!). Hot.

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Old March 21st, 2006, 02:06 AM   #19
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Wow, it's surfacce looks fluid, nice eyecatcher!
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Old March 21st, 2006, 07:00 AM   #20
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goody good good good...
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