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Thursday, October 12, 2017

21st-Century Architecture--Chicago's Aqua Tower

Frank Gehry's New York (center) as seen from the Freedom Tower's 102 story height looking east. The Manhattan Bridge is on the left, the Brooklyn bridge is on the right.
During the past few months I've started highlighting a number of 21st-century contemporary artists. Today I noticed that I've been somewhat derelict in doing the same for this century's architects and some of their startling structures starting to pop up amid the skyline of some of our major cities. Actually, I first realized this neglect last month as we were looking out from the observation level of New York City's Freedom Tower. Not far from the Brooklyn Bridge was a strikingly beautiful, but also strikingly strange, sort of twisted high-rise which mystified me. In returning home, I came to realize that what I'd see (above)was architect Frank Gehry's 76-story office and apartment tower called simply, "New York," and that I'd already written about him and it. Apparently what I wrote hadn't made much of an impression on me though the item has had 397 "hits," which is about average for an architectural piece.
Chicago's Aqua Tower, 2009, Jeanne Gang, architect.
As a result, I've selected fourteen exceptional architectural works to highlight over the next few months. Other than the fact they were all completed in the past seventeen years of this century, they have little in common (although four just happen to be art museums). Two are office/apartment buildings, and two are multi-purpose college buildings. There's also a library, a community center, a hospital, a concert venue, even a spaceport and a parking garage. They're quite an eclectic mix. Today I've chosen one of my favorites, architect, Jeanne Gang's Aqua Tower located in Chicago's Lakeshore East development area. At 859 feet in height, and boasting 87 floors, the Aqua Tower is the tallest skyscraper ever designed by a woman architect leading a design team.
The century of the curve. No more glass boxes.
Concrete meets glass as
never before.
The architect of the Aqua Tower considers it an updated version of one of Chicago's most famous landmarks: Marina City. The building is like someone set the ocean on its side, all white caps and undulating waves. The Aqua is a block north of Millennium Park, making it convenient for taking selfies in front of the polished stainless steel Bean. Like the Bean, the form of the Aqua is unique. Composed of irregularly shaped concrete slabs. Jeanne Gang cites the striated limestone outcroppings that are a common topographic feature of the Great Lakes region as inspiration for these slabs. But this sinuous shape is not just a mere formal gesture. It's also a strategy to extend the views and maximize solar shading. The wave-like form of the building is both organic and fluid. This simulates a continuous motion as spectators move around the structure.

Units range from one-bedroom studio to eight-room apartments occupying one end of an entire floor.
Two-story condo's on the lowest level (beneath the roof garden) are being offered for sale at about $4-million (that's a bargain, they were originally $6-million). A room with a view (and a little more) rents for $1,955 per month. As for the seven and eight room apartments, "If ya gotta ask, ya can't afford-em." And what, besides a strangely shaped balcony, a view to die for, a modest number of square feet, and a few empty rooms, does one get for such "high-rise" prices? Aqua’s amenities, include 24 elevators, its sprawling outdoor deck with two swimming pools, an urban garden respite, gazebos, hot tubs, a walking/running track, a fire pit, and 27,000 square-feet of indoor recreational space all shared by 747 well-to-do neighbors plus Radisson Blu hotel guests.

The Aqua Tower is not just a skyscraper but an entire neighborhood
In addition, there is the 215-room hotel (floors 1-18), 476 rental residential units (floors 19-52), and 263 condominium units & penthouses (floors 53-81). Construction was started in 2007 and completed in 2009 at a cost of $300-million. The Aqua is the first downtown building in Chicago to combine condos, apartments, and a hotel. It's also the tenth tallest building in the city. The building contains 55,000 sq. ft. (5,100 m2) of retail and office space. There's also a parking garage and a CVS pharmacy on the property.

Inside, it's nice, but it's not the Trump Tower.

Curvy balconies and rooms with a view.


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