Chicago’s third-tallest tower is one step closer to receiving a $185 million, tourist-centric makeover. New York-based developer 601W first proposed adding a dual set of 1,000-foot-plus-tall glass exterior elevators and a rooftop observation deck to the 83-story Aon Center in May 2018, and now the addition has reportedly won the support of 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly. 601W has enlisted the help of Chicago’s Solomon Cordwell Buenz to design the additions, which include a “sky summit,” a glassy pod that would dangle visitors off of the roof’s edge, the aforementioned external elevators at the rectilinear building’s northwest corner, a cantilevering entrance hall at the base of the tower’s southeast corner, and an observatory on the 82nd and 83rd floors. The HVAC system at the top of the building has already been moved to elsewhere in the tower, and 601W will be removing two-thirds of the exterior columns on the top floors to open up the views. Alderman Reilly’s support was far from guaranteed, and he recently rejected Related Midwest’s plan for two forked skyscrapers at the Chicago Spire site. Still, according to Crain’s, a spokesperson for Reilly has confirmed that the alderman is allowing the Aon Center to proceed. If the additions pass muster with Chicago’s Plan Commission and City Council, then the Aon Center will grow from 1,136 feet to 1,184 feet tall on account of the elevator addition on the roof. That’s quite close to the nearby Vista Tower, which will be 1,191 feet tall, but not enough to keep the Aon Center from falling to Chicago’s fourth tallest building when the Vista Tower is complete. 601W, also the owner of the massive Chicago Post Office (which is undergoing its own modernization initiative), estimates that the additions to the Aon Center will lure in an additional two million tourists per year. If approved, this would be the first tourist attraction at the Aon Center in the building’s 45-year history, and 601W has indicated that it will begin the two-year construction process immediately following a successful City Council vote.
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In 2004, Chicago watched historic Soldier Field become a toilet bowl. In 2019, Union Station will become a self-inked address stamper. During a public meeting on June 25, Chicago-based architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) unveiled plans to construct a seven-story glass addition to the 1925 Graham, Anderson, Probst & White train station in the West Loop. Along with Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, SCB outlined the details of the proposal, including a hotel, apartments, an office complex, and retail. If implemented, Union Station would rise in height from 150 to 245 feet, with the proposed glass rectangle atop the existing office tour delivering 404 apartments. The multi-story main building, or headhouse, would become 330 hotel rooms. Along with landmarks review, the redevelopment will need both aldermanic and zoning approval before moving forward with what will be the first phase of changes for Union Station. A second phase will add an office skyscraper south of the headhouse, while a third phase will build an apartment tower over an existing train platform nearby. With Union Station in the middle of a $22 million skylight restoration, the plan released on June 25 deviates dramatically from the one outlined in the station’s 2012 master plan, calling for two new twelve story residential towers above the headhouse. Other aspects of the master plan have already been implemented, including the restoration of the grand staircase and the Burlington Room. Listed as a Chicago Landmark in 2002, the new plans for Union Station will also require a review by The Commission on Chicago Landmarks (CCL) before a permit is provided. While Riverside Investment & Development and Convexity Properties, along with SCB, have been careful in their attempt to show that the addition will do no harm to the components of the building that make it architecturally significant, the addition reads as out of scale and context for the existing building. With the CCL charged to examine the appropriateness of proposed work on Chicago Landmarks in relation to the spirit of the Landmarks Ordinance, the plan as presented should be considered by the CCL as an adverse effect on a designated local landmark. If approved, the addition on Union Station could cause a paradigm shift in the way Chicago Landmarks are approached by potential developers, broadcasting a message that cultural and architectural resources are only of value if they are monetized to their fullest extent, and that the Landmarks Ordinance can soften in the face of economic motivators. The proposed addition is not only an imbalance in terms of design, it’s also condescending to the station itself, the architectural equivalent of a head patting, or worse. Ringing out like the 2004 renovation of Soldier Field (a project that curiously won an award for design excellence by the AIA the same year it was recommended to be stripped of its National Historic Landmark designation), this is new bullying old.
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The newest residence hall at Arizona State University in Tempe, the Tooker House, creates an impactful addition to the campus while addressing the intense solar radiation in Arizona. Solomon Cordwell Buenz’s (SCB) design consists of two parallel masses running east to west and interlocking diagonally in the middle. While the building has an expansive south-facing facade, the project mitigates solar radiation through multiple approaches.
There are two primary facade systems at work on the southern-facing portion of the residence hall. The first is a system of perforated aluminum vertical louvers. The second system is a sandstone panel facade with punched aluminum windows. The remaining portions of the building are clad with insulated metal panels and perforated aluminum screens that link the building’s massings together. SCB chose a material palette which was reflective of the surrounding desert context. Due to Tempe’s climate, the solar shading strategies were particularly important in the design approach. SCB conducted an intensive sun shading analysis on all facade exposures. The goal was to create a facade which achieved a 20-25% reduction of solar heat gain and offered visual transparency to the student rooms behind. The perforated aluminum louver system wraps one portion of the south facade in an intricately textured design. The louvers are spaced twenty-two-inches apart on center on the south facades, with a more generous spacing on the southeast-facing side. The louvers are then attached to a vertically suspended steel truss anchored into steel plates embedded in the concrete structure. A drainable exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS) is applied to the concrete as a backdrop to the aluminum louvers. Each louver has a unique rotation which results in an pixelated pattern stretching across the three continuous facades. Every louver’s angle of rotation is set with screws and required coordination with the subcontractor to achieve the specific angle. As seen in the diagrams, when viewed as a whole, the facade emulates the waves of sand dunes and other natural patterns contextual to the region. In coordination with the facade manufacturer, Kovach Building Enclosures, the project team analyzed different louver shapes and monitored overall effectiveness and design aesthetics but also worked to make sure the design was cost efficient. The louvers ended up with a unique “airfoil” shape which softens their visual profile, opening up the facade to increased daylighting and views of the campus. The material transitions to sandstone on the eastern portion of the south facade, and provides a change in scale in opposition to the louvers. It also delineates the dining hall program on the first level. The facade contains punched windows with aluminum surrounds extruded out, effectively creating external solar shading devices. Additionally, perforated aluminum cladding on stairs, bridges and terraces provides extra solar protection while maintaining ventilation in the open air spaces.
Solomon Cordwell Buenz, TCA Architects, and developers Carmel Partners have unveiled renderings for the 1,210-unit Cumulus development, a new mixed-use project slated for the former KLOS and KABC radio broadcast facilities at the La Cienega/Jefferson Expo Line stop in Los Angeles. The tower-and-slab project will bring a cluster of seven-story courtyard apartment blocks as well as a 30-story housing tower to a transit-adjacent area currently populated mostly by industrial structures and single-family homes. The structures will feature ground-floor retail spaces and will also surround a new one-acre public park designed by Studio MLA. Renderings for the 11-acre project depict the mid-rise apartments laid out in a perimeter block formation, with the central green wrapped by an internal street and overlooked by the units above. The apartment blocks themselves are sheathed in various finishes and feature articulated massing, shifting floor plates, and collected amenities along various rooftop levels. According to a draft environmental impact report, the development will contain 300,000 square feet of commercial floor area, including 200,000 square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet of grocery store, 20,000 square feet of restaurant space, and 30,000 square feet of general retail. Despite being located along a transit stop, the project contains 2,371 vehicle parking stalls for all the combined uses that are arranged throughout the complex in a five-level parking podium. The project will also contains 1,500 bicycle parking spaces located in an indoor bike room. The apartment tower has its own dedicated two-story parking podium and does not connect to the mid-rise blocks. The tower is slated to rise 330 feet and will join the forthcoming 17-story (W)rapper tower coming to the area by Eric Owen Moss Architects. Urbanize.la reports that excavation for the project’s parking is set to begin in two months. A final construction timeline is not available
While Chicago’s iconic Tribune Towers is undergoing a conversion from office building to condo tower, a 1,388-foot-tall steel and glass tower could sprout up next door. Tribune Tower’s owners, the Los Angeles-based CIM Group and Chicago-based Golub & Co, have revealed plans to build what could be Chicago’s second tallest skyscraper. After being sold in 2016 for $240 million to private developers, the top floors of the 36-story, Gothic Revival-styled Tribune Tower have been undergoing demolition since last October. While the building’s facade and main lobby were landmarked in 1989, no such protections exist for the interiors, and Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) is overseeing the conversion of what was once offices for Tribune Media into 165 condo units.
According to the Chicago Tribune, CIM Group and Golub have proposed developing a narrow surface parking lot to the northeast of Tribune Tower into a mixed-use skyscraper designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. As the Chicago Tribune notes, Adrian Smith is no stranger to building tall, having led the design team for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Trump Tower Chicago when he was with SOM. The new tower would eclipse Trump Tower Chicago as the second tallest in Chicago, as Trump Tower only tops out at 1,171 feet tall, and uses a spire to reach 1,388 feet. The current proposal would see the creation of 220 hotel rooms and 158 condo units, as well as 500 parking spaces spread across floors two through eight of the new tower. Alderman Brendan Reilly described the design as “thin and soaring” based on renderings he had seen. This thinness is likely a response to the protected Ogden Slip view corridor, which means that Tribune Tower must remain visible from Lake Shore Drive as part of its landmarked status. While preservationists have been questioning whether this new development, which would dwarf the 462-foot-tall Tribune Tower, is inappropriate for the site, the conversion of Tribune Tower itself has also drawn their ire. The building’s limestone base contains embedded chunks of famous buildings from around the world, and Alderman Reilly has stated that these panels will be relocated to different areas of the tower. Tribune Tower was built in 1925 following a widely-publicized design contest that awarded the $50,000 prize to New York-based Howells & Hood. The tower’s Indiana limestone façade, gothic details, and crown composed of flying buttresses has made it an integral part of the Chicago skyline in the century since its opening. The conversion to residential space and the opening of ground floor retail is expected to finish in 2020; any construction on the adjacent lot is on hold until the Tribune Tower project is complete. The plans presented above are still subject to change, as the developers still need to procure funding and a rezoning of the lot before they can proceed.
Old Tribune Tower doors. Because who wants original details in their historic building, anyway? pic.twitter.com/pAv7YHeDLS— Liam T.A. Ford (@ltaford) January 6, 2018
Developer Forest City West and architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) have unveiled renderings for a new 27-story apartment tower slated for construction on a site directly opposite the Lawrence Halprin–designed Grand-Hope Park in Downtown Los Angeles. The residential tower—currently known as 949 Hope Street—will feature 236 market-rate apartments as well as 6,700 square feet of ground floor retail spaces, Urbanize.la reports. Renderings for the tower depict a glass curtain wall–clad monolith anchored to the street by a low, single-story plinth containing retail and sidewalk seating. The tower’s base is topped along this commercial wing with an amenity level that is depicted as a rooftop garden and lounge. This level extends behind the tower into the center of the block, where parking and more terrace spaces are located. The building features a rounded corner that demarcates a cut-through walkway along the southern edge of the site and also features inset balconies along each facade. The tower is topped, according to the renderings, with a rooftop pool and a circular indoor lounge area. The project is slated for a booming quarter of L.A.’s downtown known as South Park. The area is currently ablaze with construction cranes, as the first of upwards of 20 residential and high-end hotel towers take shape in the areas surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center and L.A. Live entertainment complexes just to the south of the 949 Hope Street site. The northern section of the neighborhood—where the proposed tower will be located—has seen a sharp increase in high- and mid-rise residential projects over the last few years, with many more on the way. The area was originally targeted for growth in the late 1980s—with the help of Halprin and developer Maguire Partners—who envisioned Grand-Hope park as the southern cap of a district-wide parks system that would connect residential areas with corporate office towers located several blocks to the north on Bunker Hill. Though many elements of that parks system were never implemented, Halprin’s designs for the bookend parks—Grand-Hope Park to the south and Maguire Gardens at the north—were built and currently function as urban oases amid the flurry of construction. Grand-Hope Park shares a site with the postmodern-style, Jerde-designed Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising from 1993 and is heavily used by neighborhood residents. There are concerns among park preservationists over whether the mature trees in Grand-Hope park might be singed by the light reflected from the many glass towers sprouting up in the area. Tellingly, representations of the park are mostly omitted in the newly-released renderings. The 949 Hope Street project is slated for completion sometime in 2020.
By the time currently planned extensions to Los Angeles’s Purple Line are completed in 2024, the subway line will run from Downtown L.A. to Westwood, roughly nine miles further than it does today. Work on the extension is well underway, and, not by coincidence, the first crop of Purple Line–adjacent luxury high-rise housing projects recently came online, providing a glimpse at what L.A.’s residents can look forward to as transit starts to rework surrounding neighborhoods. As speculative developments, the new crop of towers represents a sort of trial run for transit-oriented luxury housing in L.A. The new buildings are not innovative so much as they are novel, imported typologies for a city in which the wealthiest denizens typically occupy mountainside perches, not the tops of towers. These first projects share a few qualities—namely that several came into being as the worst of the Great Recession hit, products of not only hard work but also a litany of delays, project sales, and redesigns. Their final manifestations, hard-fought as they were, hint at some of the shortcomings the recession generated: generic podium-and-tower massing, use of conventional materials like smooth stucco and glass, and generous, if not overly fussy, shared amenity spaces.
Downtown, two projects—the TEN50 apartments by HansonLA and Atelier DTLA by San Francisco–based Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB)—will bring a combined 514 units to a dense neighborhood already connected to the existing transit network. The TEN50 condominium complex, which features an architecturally dynamic form despite its conventional construction systems and materials, was first approved over a decade ago, but did not enter construction until 2015. The 151-unit complex rises 24 stories and features 5,900 square feet of groundfloor retail. The tower is wrapped in expansive window assemblies and features projecting balconies. At one corner, planar massing shifts as multistory, undulating curtainwall-clad volumes jog in and out of the main building mass, creating a series of overhanging terraces. The building’s most striking amenity? A drone landing pad on the sixth floor designed in anticipation of robot-based on-demand delivery services. Two blocks closer to the subway line, SCB’s 33-story Atelier DTLA apartment building features 363 luxury rental units in a black glass-clad tower. The structure features an expansive fifth floor amenity level complete with swimming pool, planted terraces, bocce court, and a shared lounge carved out from the main building mass. The tower’s rooftop terrace has wraparound views and a second swimming pool. The apartments themselves feature generous interior designs by Rodrigo Vargas Design, with bedrooms and living areas oriented around the tower’s slightly canted and sometimes cantilevered exterior walls.
In Koreatown, the Purple Line’s current terminus, Steinberg Architect’s 190-unit 3033 Wilshire bolsters the “linear downtown” running along Wilshire Boulevard. The tower’s floor-to-ceiling curtain-wall facades are interrupted by vertical spandrels; along the tower’s most prominent corner, the walls gently angle inwardly, creating long, tapered balconies. The larger units are designed with bedrooms spaced far enough apart to accommodate shared living arrangements, according to the architects. A podium-level dog run is fronted by a series of private terraces adjacent to the space, while operable awning windows and inset balconies rhythmically interrupt the tower’s stucco-clad facade along this exposure. The 40-story Ten Thousand Santa Monica tower by Handel Architects is decidedly the most high-end of the bunch. The 283-unit tower was completed in 2016 and features canted exterior facades and a broken envelope that provides each of the six to eight units per floor focused views and variable outdoor patio spaces. The units feature interior design by Shamir Shah Design and include 10-foot-tall ceilings throughout, as well as fancy finishes like Italian titanium travertine, statuary marble, limestone, and walnut flooring. The higher-end units feature 16-foot-tall living areas. The complex also boasts water-wise landscaping by Meléndrez, including a two-acre private park that faces south and is lined with 12-foot-tall privacy hedges.
As these projects fill up with new tenants, eyes across the region will be turned toward how the completed towers interact with their surroundings and whether they facilitate pedestrian-oriented lifestyles. A big question moving forward will be whether developers and city agencies can forego their penchant for oversized parking podiums and whether, when faced with fewer budgetary and entitlement restrictions, architects and developers will begin to truly work toward a locally derived variant of the luxury tower typology.
Brought to you with support fromAn active light display animates the facade of a new office building in Warsaw, Poland, highlighting the Wola neighborhood’s transition from industrial manufacturing to a new residential and office district. The Prime Corporate Center was designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz in conjunction with the Warsaw office of Epstein. The building’s design addresses varying vehicular and pedestrian arrival points by segregating car drop-off from those arriving by public transit. An additional 15 stories of offices above an eight-story base is coordinated with the scale of the street. Martin Wolf, principal at Solomon Cordwell Buenz, said the simplicity of the building allowed his team to focus on a sophisticated facade composition: "This project became an exercise in pattern, geometry, and very subtle layers of texture. We achieved this through the combination of fritted glass panels, clear view glazing, and a selective articulation of the curtain wall system." At night, a grid of LED lights incorporated into the unitized curtain wall system to produce a delicate, shifting array of color and pattern that dramatizes the exterior wall. Guardian Glass's Poland manufacturing facility provided glazing and worked with the project team to integrate LED wiring into the curtain wall. These linear lights are wired into a central computer housed in the building, which hosts a computer sequencing program. The technology allows for Prime’s facade to be easily programmed by the building operator, who can flexibly produce variation in lighting schemes. Prime’s building envelope features integrated building systems to control the MEP/FP systems, a monitoring system that optimizes water and electrical power consumption, a heating recovery system, and an interior shading system to help manage solar heat gain. The office plates are designed for future flexibility, incorporating a raised floor system and column-free interior space. These features contribute to the building’s BREEAM certification, a UK green building rating system. Wolf said the Solomon Cordwell Buenz’s office continues to have an ongoing interest in integrative lighting techniques, and that LEDs allow for an impressive amount of variables for any project team to work with. "The beauty about LED is that if you wire it properly, you have an infinite array of color, sequencing, intensity, and timing." Facades like Prime’s, which have the capacity for coordinated building-scale lighting schemes, have the opportunity to communicate with the city utilizing data analysis, upcoming cultural events, and atmospheric conditions. According to Wolf, Prime is an “incredible work of art,” and adds “a needed touch of whimsy” to the urban context. A video of the facade lights in action can be seen below:
Sears and Roebuck Company may no longer be the giant it once was, yet its physical presence is still all over the city of Chicago. As the company had no brick and mortar retail stores until nearly 30 years after its founding in 1886 as a mail-order catalog, many of its earliest buildings were for logistics and storage. One of those old structures is its large original headquarters and catalog printing facility. Abandoned for 40 years, the epic building has now been converted into 181 affordable housing units. Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side, the complete renovation was lead by Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architects, James McHugh Construction Co., and Denco, for client Mercy Housing Lakefront. The six-story brick complex will house upwards of 300 residents in 79 one-bedroom units, 52 two-bedroom units, 40 three-bedroom units, and 10 four-bedroom units. Other amenities include a community room, laundry facilities, a computer center, and an exercise facility. The redeveloped complex will now be known as the Lofts on Arthington. Limestone and terracotta details throughout, as well as many of the other original details, were restored in the process of converting the campus. Nearly the entire roof and over 100,000 square feet of flooring had to be completely replaced. Much of the structure had to be updated as well, along with filling in underground tunnels once used by Sears to move across the complex. In recent years, Sears has continued its decline, with an announcement from the company’s leadership expressing “substantial doubt” about its future. Famously, the company’s namesake supertall tower was renamed the Willis Tower in 2014, though most Chicagoans still refer to it as the Sears Tower. The Old Chicago Main Post Office, which was once the largest post office in the world thanks to Sears’s mail-order business, was vacated in 1997. Now with many of Sears’s old buildings being refurbished, and the Old Main Post Office being completely renovated, some of Chicago’s largest structures, from the golden age of mail-order merchandising, are getting a second chance at life.
Slowly but surely, one of Chicago’s slightly offbeat landmarks is being covered up. The Homage to the Chicago School of Architecture, an epic multi-faced mural by Richard Haas, is disappearing behind a new tower development in Chicago’s Old Town. The mural adorns a 1929 apartment building, formerly named the LaSalle Towers Hotel. The building was remodeled in the 1980s by Weese Seegers Hickey Weese, who advocated for the mural. The buildings north, south, and western faces were left nearly blank when it was originally built. Some speculate that it was expected that other tall buildings would quickly rise up around it, leaving no need to give the faces an aesthetic finish. It has taken 70 years but that prediction is finally coming true at the cost of an unexpected icon. The mural is dedicated to the Chicago School of architecture and depicts many of the signatures of late 19th century Chicago. Each face employs a trompe-l'œil technique often used by Haas. The east face of the building depicts rows of Burnham style bay windows and Chicago-style bases and cornices. The north face shows a faux reflection of Adolph Loos’s submission to the Tribune tower competition, a Doric column shaped tower. The south face recreates Louis Sullivan’s golden arch from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Transportation Building and the circular window form Sullivan’s Grinnell, Iowa, Merchants' National Bank. The busts of Louis Sullivan, Danial Burnham, John Wellborn Root, and Frank Lloyd Wright are painted near the base, below the arch. The new residential tower rising around the mural, The Sinclair, was designed by Chicago-based Solomon Cordwell Buenz. The 420-foot-tall Sinclair will be 35 stories with 390 units. Thirty-nine of the units will be reserved for affordable housing. The base will include 55,000 square feet retail space. This includes a grocery store (which once stood on the site), with a green roof. Though it was only a matter of time before the surface lots surrounding the Haas mural would be built up, the drive down LaSalle Blvd. won’t be the same without the defining art piece. The north face of the building will remain uncovered, leaving Loos’s tower visible to southbound traffic. A construction site cam shows the new tower rising and the mural disappearing behind.
Chicago’s Loyola University has wasted no time, it seems, in taking advantage of low interest loans in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The school has spent more than $500 million on building projects since 2008, reported Crain’s Chicago Business. At No. 106 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 ranking of national universities, Loyola could stand to improve its public profile. Though it gained 13 places since last year’s ranking, the school lags nearby Northwestern (12th) and the University of Chicago (4th) considerably. The expansion includes new buildings at both the medical campus in suburban Maywood, IL. (here's AN's coverage of a sleek new home for the university's nursing school) and in Chicago’s Rogers Park, where a $58.8 million Institute of Environmental Sustainability opens this month. Read the full Crain's report here.
Friday marked Designight 2012—AIA Chicago’s annual awards gala—which brought nearly 1,000 members of the area’s design community together at Navy Pier to recognize 39 projects in four awards categories: Distinguished Building, Interior Architecture, Divine Detail, and Sustainability Leadership. John Ronan’s Poetry Foundation; Perkins+Will’s Universidade Agostinho Neto in Luanda, Angola; Sheehan Partners’ Facebook Data Center in Prineville, Ore.; and David Woodhouse Architects’ Richard J. Daley Library IDEA Commons in Chicago (featured in the October Midwest issue of AN Midwest) were among the repeat winners of the night. Helmut Jahn accepted a lifetime achievement award, calling on the designers present to imagine a better future and then “make that future happen.” On behalf of his firm, Jahn also formally adopted the changes reported earlier—a new name, JAHN, and the ascension of Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido to share design leadership with Jahn. Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow. The full list of winners and all 262 projects entered into the competition can be found on AIA Chicago's website.