Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois
The tallest building designed by a women-owned architectural firm and first skyscraper from Jeanne Gang, Aqua certain makes quite the impression along Chicago’s skyline. The mixed use skyscraper is located just north of Millennium Park at 225 N. Columbus Drive. Three components are integrated into the singular design of Aqua, the hotel space occupies floors 4 to 18 providing 225 rooms, apartments on floors 19 to 52 and condominiums from floors 53 to 81. The adjoining park provides retail, parking and additional residential space in townhouses that face the park.
The concept of the Aqua Tower design was inspired by the striated limestone outcroppings common in the Great Lakes area. The shape of the building originated from a strategy to extend views while maximizing solar shading. The curving balconies stretch from 2 to 12 feet providing a shield the apartments from intense sunlight while adding a sense of privacy. Gang is known for her talent of turning mundane materials into poetic forms, turning the concrete structure into a sculptural form. As you approach the tower the presence of the balconies oblique angles create waves that flow across the building, relating it back to the limestone outcroppings in the great lakes.
What I found fascinating about her design, was her ability to maintain a rectilinear floor plan for the comfort and ease of the residents while breaking the repetitive, right-angled elements of the typical skyscraper that becomes an aesthetic monotony. She created a residential skyscraper, for people to live and enjoy their surroundings rather than another building to work in. As well as an 80,000 square foot park atop a podium that not only reduces the heat island effect from the surrounding skyscrapers, but provides a recreational element to the design as well as parking space below. She also achieved geometric...