By Kayla Fuller
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.
striated limestone outcroppings
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 naturalism through the incorporation of paths that meander between evergreen and deciduous trees in the park.
Although the original concept was not focused on designing a green building, they ended up achieving LEED status for their final design. Sun studies were completed to analyze the different glazing types needed to provide energy savings, the most common used were Low-E glazing and frit. While the balconies provide excellent shading and energy savings during the spring and summer months, they are inefficient during the winter months. As the concrete balconies extend from the building they slim down, causing significant heat loss during the colder months.
The building is to attract a younger crowd who prefer the apartment’s light and airy feel, with balconies, views and the opportunity for recreation right outside their front door. Aqua contributes to sustainability and is said to “foster a sense of urbanity and a related life style.”
I hope you enjoyed my post, see you all next time.