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Thread: AQUA - Chicago - by Studio Gang Architects

  1. #121


  2. #122
    Forum Veteran Tectonic's Avatar
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  3. #123
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Ghosty face

  4. #124
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    I love this building!

  5. #125
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    So does Paul Goldberger ...


    Jeanne Gang and architecture’s anti-divas.

    by Paul Goldberger
    FEBRUARY 1, 2010


    Aqua — a new, eighty-two-story apartment tower in the center of Chicago — is made of the same tough, brawny materials as most skyscrapers: metal, concrete, and lots of glass. But the architect, Jeanne Gang, a forty-five-year-old Chicagoan, has figured out a way to give it soft, silky lines, like draped fabric. She started with a fairly conventional rectangular glass slab, then transformed it by wrapping it on all four sides with wafer-thin, curving concrete balconies, describing a different shape on each floor. Gang turned the façade into an undulating landscape of bending, flowing concrete, as if the wind were blowing ripples across the surface of the building. You know this tower is huge and solid, but it feels malleable, its exterior pulsing with a gentle rhythm.

    The building would be an achievement for any architect, but Gang, who has run her own firm since 1997, had never designed a skyscraper before and happened into this one almost by accident. A couple of years ago, she was seated at a dinner next to Jim Lowenberg, a developer who had built a number of mediocre condominium towers in a huge development over the old Illinois Central rail yards, known as Lakeshore East. A prime site in the project remained, Lowenberg told her, and he envisioned doing something more ambitious there. He liked Gang and offered her a shot.

    A lot of attention—in Chicago, at least—has been given to the fact that Aqua is the tallest building in the world designed by a woman. That’s nice for Gang, but beside the point, and dwelling on it leads too easily to predictable interpretations of skyscrapers as symbols of male identity. Gang’s achievement has more to do with freeing us from such silliness. Her building is most compelling as an example of architecture that is practical and affordable enough to please real-estate developers and stirring enough to please critics. Not many buildings like that get made at any height, or by architects of either gender.

    Furthermore, the success of Aqua isn’t just that Gang figured out a smart, low-budget way of turning an ordinary glass condo tower into something that looks exciting. The design is anchored in common sense in two ways that aren’t immediately apparent, making the building, from a technical point of view, even more remarkable than it looks. The balcony overhangs of the façade serve an environmental purpose, shading apartments from the hot summer sun. More ingenious still, they protect the building from the force of wind, one of the most difficult challenges in skyscraper engineering. The landscape of rolling hills and valleys created by the balconies effectively confuses the heavy Chicago winds, giving them no clear path. The wind is broken up so much that the building didn’t require a device known as a “tuned mass damper”—a mass weighing hundreds of tons that engineers place at the top of tall buildings to stabilize them against the vibrations and sway caused by the force of wind. And using the curves to dissipate the wind gave Gang a bonus: she was able to put balconies on every floor, all the way up. Usually, condominiums sixty or seventy floors above the street don’t have balconies, because it’s just too windy up there to go outside.

    hen you catch your first glimpse of Aqua’s swirling façade poking out from between its boxy neighbors, you might think it’s a gigantic version of one of those “blob” buildings of the past few years, curvy forms designed largely by computer. But Gang isn’t Greg Lynn or Hani Rashid. She brings aesthetics and engineering together in a way that is more aligned with the tradition of Chicago’s canonical modern architecture than the building’s appearance suggests. Chicago is where architects like Louis Sullivan, John Wellborn Root, Mies van der Rohe, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill elevated pragmatic solutions to structural problems to the level of art. And that is precisely what Gang has done, albeit with a different aesthetic. For all its visual power, Aqua is mostly free of conceit. In an age in which so much architectural form—even, sometimes, the best architectural form—has no real rationale beyond the fact that it is what the architect felt like doing, there is something admirable about the tower’s lack of arbitrariness. It reclaims the notion that thrilling and beautiful form can still emerge out of the realm of the practical.

    In this sense, Gang could not be more different from Zaha Hadid, who is the most famous female architect around. Hadid is a brilliant shaper of form, but her buildings are nothing if not arbitrary, and the combination of her fame and her flamboyant designs has insidiously led people to assume that female architects tend to favor shape-making over problem-solving. In fact, there are plenty of women who have built successful architectural practices by selling themselves not as divas but as purveyors of reason who also happen to be able to make beautiful things. In New York, Deborah Berke, a fifty-five-year-old architect and professor at Yale, directs a firm that has designed hotels, art galleries, academic buildings, houses, and the high-profile 48 Bond Street condominium. (Berke’s Web site describes her work as “simple, not simplistic; elegant, not extravagant; luxurious, not lavish.”) In San Francisco, Cathy Simon founded a firm, SMWM—until a recent merger, it was among the largest women-owned firms in the country—that numbers the restored San Francisco Ferry Building and the San Francisco Public Library among its projects. Marianne McKenna (the “M” in the big Toronto firm KPMB) just finished an acclaimed concert hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music, in Toronto, and has been in charge of a new downtown university campus in Montreal. Denise Scott Brown, of the Philadelphia firm Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, has been a dominant force in the field of planning and urban design for more than a generation.

    Female architects like these share a high interest in modern design combined with a low interest in ideology. They approach design less as an opportunity to demonstrate a set of ideas than as a way of answering a series of questions about the nature of a place, a client, or a function. “I like to do research about a place, about materials, and about a program,” Gang told me. “The longer I can delay coming up with a form, the better.

    Developers don’t always like that, but it’s the part I like the most.” In the case of Aqua, she experimented with several ideas before she settled on making a façade out of what she calls the “built contours” of undulating concrete balconies. Gang worked for Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam for two years after she got her architecture degree, at Harvard, but she considered becoming an engineer before she decided to be an architect, and she thinks primarily in terms of what is buildable. Still, she is passionate about what her buildings look like—“I have a preference for light structure, for things that look light, almost fragile,” she told me—and as capable of obsessing over a single detail as Norman Foster. But she seems determined to approach her projects without preconceived notions of what they should look like. “I don’t think I could have sketched Aqua on Day One,” she said.

    When I went to Chicago to see Aqua, Gang took me through the building, but she seemed more interested in making sure I got to see two new projects that were barely larger than the biggest Aqua apartments: a community center and a video-and-film production center for Columbia College, both on the South Side. The community center has a façade made up of several layers of different types of concrete, added unevenly one atop the other, so that the exterior looks like a gargantuan sand painting, an abstract composition in gray and beige—another instance of a powerful aesthetic statement achieved with conventional materials used in an unconventional way. At Columbia, an arts college housed in a series of old buildings, Gang’s center, the first entirely new structure that the college has built, is an exuberant building of concrete and glass whose interior is laid out so as to emphasize framed views from one area to another: Gang approached the project thinking in terms of how a director might frame shots through a camera. She also tinted some of the glass in the façade to resemble the blocks of color in a television test pattern.

    That’s the sort of idea that could be a gimmick, but Gang is good enough to pull it off. She designs by trying to identify with the client, and coming up with something that she wouldn’t do for anyone else. For an environmental center, also on the South Side, she decided to construct most of the building out of recycled material, and ended up using not only recycled steel for the exterior cladding but recycled bluejeans as an insulating material. For a housing complex in Hyderabad, she is trying to find a way to reinterpret the traditional Indian courtyard house in high-rise form.

    Gang has no interest in establishing a look that marks her buildings as hers. Her instincts are modern, but style alone doesn’t shape her work; materials, technology, and an ongoing attempt to see from the perspective of the people who will use the buildings mean much more to her. “You know, a lot of architects get into fetishized objects,” she said to me. “But when you can design anything you want without actually having to make it, you do wild things that can’t work. And that’s not what I want to do.” ♦

  6. #126


    Chicago's "Aqua" Selected as 2009 Skyscraper of the Year

    FRANKFURT, Germany, February 23, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The jury of the Emporis Skyscraper Award has announced Aqua, an 81-story residential and hotel tower in Chicago, as the winner of the 2009 Skyscraper of the Year. The award, now celebrating its tenth year, is given annually to a building at least 100 meters tall and completed within the award year.

    The second place winner is O14 in Dubai. Third place goes to The Met in Bangkok. All winners were selected from 305 eligible buildings completed worldwide in 2009.

    Members of the jury praised Aqua for its fascinating shape, whose appearance changes dramatically depending on the perspective. It was also cited as a brilliant technical achievement for the precision of its construction, and lauded as an application of green design innovations to an extremely large building project.

    Situated in a large lakeside development, Aqua intersperses undulating balconies with flat glassy planes to create a wavy facade in keeping with its nautical theme. Because each balcony's perimeter varies slightly from the one below, the contractors (James McHugh Construction Co.) employed a flexible mold in coordination with GPS. The effect has been compared to a rippled curtain, or (according to its architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects), to the striated limestone formations common to the Great Lakes region.

    Aqua is the third-tallest building in the world designed by a woman - surpassed only by the two Emirates Towers in Dubai - and is currently the 40th tallest building in the United States. Aqua has a height of 249.7 meters (819.34 feet) measured from its main entrance on Upper Columbus Drive.

    Mister Joe/ flickr

    Mister Joe/ flickr

  7. #127


    The same Emporis who put the Beaver at ten?

  8. #128
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    NYC - Downtown


    Not sure about that ^

  9. #129


    Why not?

    Top ten list:
    86 points: Aqua (Chicago)
    61 points: 0-14 (Dubai)
    43 points: The Met (Bangkok)
    38 points: Torres de Hércules (Los Barrios)
    36 points: Trump International Hotel & Tower (Chicago)
    34 points: The Red Apple (Rotterdam)
    32 points: Bank of America Tower (New York City)
    16 points: Almas Tower (Dubai)
    13 points: Millennium Tower (San Francisco)
    10 points: William Beaver House (New York City)

  10. #130


    This building looks very nice, I love it. This residential/hotel tower has a sophisticated, clean yet green and efficient design, I would love to live in it, ! I have to say, Chicago is introducing and building some nice towers, more into the 21st Century than ever, !

  11. #131


    The New York Times
    The Nifty 50 | Jeanne Gang, Architect
    JANUARY 25, 2010, 9:00 AM

    This month, T celebrates the Nifty 50: America’s up-and-coming talent.

    When the innovative 82-story Aqua residential tower — with its curving concrete floor slabs that incorporate balconies with enhanced views and double as passive solar shading — opened recently in Chicago, articles on the project noted that it was the tallest skyscraper ever designed by a woman. But even more impressive is the fact that the woman in question, Jeanne Gang, is a mere 45 years old (a youngster by architects’ standards) and founded her office, Studio Gang, in Chicago only 13 years ago — a point at which many architects are still doing apartment renovations. The Illinois-born daughter of a civil engineer and her 35-person office have quickly amassed a portfolio of projects that address the issues of materials, process and community context with equal amounts of boldness and common sense.

    Aqua’s unusual floor slabs would have been impossible without today’s digital design technology. But Gang’s decision to make them user- and energy-friendly, rather than just formal devices, reveals her interest in making tall buildings better citizens.....

    Read full article at:

  12. #132


    I think it's an interesting idea and in some places, it is quite cool to look at. But it seems to be more of an exercise in balcony designs as opposed to building designs. The waves are lost on most who view it from afar. From afar, it's basically a square tower with what looks like rashes on it. As Chicago attractions go, I think this will get a lot of attention from tourists.
    Last edited by RebeccaM; August 14th, 2011 at 08:21 PM.

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