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Aqua Makes Top 40: Chicago Magazine

Chicago Magazine Cites Aqua Among 40 Reasons to Love Chicago

In a special 40th anniversary edition, the December issue of Chicago magazine proclaiming 40 Reasons to Love Chicago devoted an entire page to Architect Jeanne Gang and her design of Lakeshore East’s Aqua tower in explaining “because as a center of architectural innovation we can still strut our stuff.”

The article opens with the explanation: “Writing in the New Yorker earlier this year, Paul Goldberger offered his take on the newly opened Aqua, the undulating 82-story skyscraper at 222 North Columbus Drive. The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic loved this building – “ingenious” – and grouped its designer, Jeanne Gang of Chicago’s Studio Gang, among the city’s most illustrious architects, among them Louis Sullivan, John Root and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Recently, Gang discussed a few of the behind-the-scenes details that contributed to Aqua’s success. – Geoffrey Johnson”

Here is a bullet-by-bullet description provided by Chicago of those fascinating behind-the-scenes details that tell the story of Aqua’s internationally-proclaimed design:

 Rock of Ages. Gang and her colleagues drew inspiration for Aqua’s furrowed façade from the striated limestone formations that rise up along the shores of the Great Lakes.
 Sight unseen. Recognizing that Aqua would stand within a cluster of tall buildings, Studio Gang calculated various “lines of desire” that would provide residents unexpected views of the cityscape from their bumper-out balconies.
 The Plot Thickens. After Studio Gang digitally plotted each of Aqua’s distinctive contours, builders used that information and GPS-like coordinates to precisely pour the 82 differently -shaped concrete floors.
 Partial Eclipse. Studies of the sun’s position throughout the year determined the balconies’ placements. “In wintertime, when the sun is low, you get the sun coming in when you want it,” says Gang. In the summer, when the sun is higher, the balconies act as shades that keep Aqua cool.
 Gust busters. The balconies’ staggered placements prevent the wind from picking up speed as it encounters the building, which means that Aqua’s residents can enjoy their balconies without being buffeted.
 Reflecting Pools. The weave of balconies delineated areas of unshaded glass – Gang calls them “pools” – that were both beautiful and problematic. “After we had created this landscape, we realized there were going to be areas that didn’t have sun screens,” Gang says. To solve that problem, builders used a more reflective glazed glass in those areas to help repel the sun’s heat.
 Hood winks. Gang seems especially delighted that Aqua has become, in her words, a “vertical community” where residents can “inhabit the façade” and even give a shout-out to their neighbors.
 On the Fly. To pour the concrete floors, builders used “flying formworks” – basically a big platform hanging off the side of the building (rather than resting on the recently installed floors below) that allowed each floor to be poured in three days rather than the usual week.
 Sweet Home. Neighborly spirit spills over to the 80,000-square-foot green roof (on the second floor) where condo owners and apartment dwellers democratically mingle. “They all share this amazing roof garden,” says Gang. “It’s helping make a community out of Aqua.”