AIA Guide to Chicago Avatar

John D. Runge House
2138 W. Pierce Ave.
1884, Frommann & Jebsen
The elaborate two-story porch beautifully frames the views through robust posts and finely worked motifs, such as the Masonic insignias under the eaves of the gabled dormer.

John D. Runge House

2138 W. Pierce Ave.

1884, Frommann & Jebsen

The elaborate two-story porch beautifully frames the views through robust posts and finely worked motifs, such as the Masonic insignias under the eaves of the gabled dormer.


Lake View Presbyterian Church
716 W. Addison St.
1888, Burnham & Root
2005, Restoration, Holabird & Root
This simple Shingle Style structure—now gloriously restored—has a high pitched roof and octagonal tower with conical steeple. Built shortly before the annexation of Lake View, it features the wood frame construction that had been prohibited in Chicago after the Fire. In the 1890s the church was enlarged, shifting the axis to north–south.

Lake View Presbyterian Church

716 W. Addison St.

1888, Burnham & Root

2005, Restoration, Holabird & Root

This simple Shingle Style structure—now gloriously restored—has a high pitched roof and octagonal tower with conical steeple. Built shortly before the annexation of Lake View, it features the wood frame construction that had been prohibited in Chicago after the Fire. In the 1890s the church was enlarged, shifting the axis to north–south.

Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven 
(formerly Chess Records; originally McNaull Tire Co.)
2120 S. Michigan Ave.
1911, Horatio R. Wilson 
1957, Remodeling, John S. Townsend, Jr., and Jack S. Weiner 
This is Chicago’s only building to inspire a Rolling Stones song, which was named for the building and recorded here in 1964 as a tribute to Chess Records. The company’s headquarters from 1957 to 1967 were in this building, which—like its neighbors—began life “in the motor trade.”
Photo via Seth Saith.

Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven

(formerly Chess Records; originally McNaull Tire Co.)

2120 S. Michigan Ave.

1911, Horatio R. Wilson

1957, Remodeling, John S. Townsend, Jr., and Jack S. Weiner

This is Chicago’s only building to inspire a Rolling Stones song, which was named for the building and recorded here in 1964 as a tribute to Chess Records. The company’s headquarters from 1957 to 1967 were in this building, which—like its neighbors—began life “in the motor trade.”

Photo via Seth Saith.

Aqua 
225 N. Columbus Dr.
2009, Studio Gang Architects, Design Arch., Loewenberg Architects, Arch. of Record
It took nearly half a century, but with the completion of Jeanne Gang’s Aqua, the towers of Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City finally have a true rival for the kind of visual audacity that makes a building a symbol of Chicago throughout the world.
Like Marina City, it is a mixed-use complex, combining condominiums, apartments, commercial space and a hotel.  Unlike Marina City, Aqua as a tower is the usual basic rectangular box.  What sets it apart is the remarkable way Gang has used the idea of a “vertical topography” to gave the face of the building a complex texture that “ungrids” the more conventional linearity that lies beneath.  
This is done through the edges of the floor slabs, which vary continuously from one floor to the next.  Where studies showed the best views (or the most need for sun shading), the slabs end in balconies, cantilevered out as much as 12 feet.   In other areas, balconies are as narrow as 2 feet, or are omitted altogether, and the curtain wall behind them deploys high-performance, more reflective glass to form “pools,” watery-looking voids resting within the vertical landforms of the rippling balconies.
Soon after its completion, Aqua received a large number of awards but also spawned a firestorm of debate over the building’s claims to sustainability. The most frequent critique was that the lack of thermal blocks allows the balcony slabs to channel the cold of a Chicago winter directly into the apartments.  Gang countered that the shading provided by the slabs makes the building more energy efficient in the summer, and that the curtain wall was designed to reduce both solar gain and the infiltration of unwanted air, while operable doors and windows increase natural ventilation.
Despite a striking cantilever-canopied entrance at the north end, the huge three-story podium that houses ballrooms and retail engages the street in a perfunctory manner.  On its roof, an 80,000-square-foot terrace incorporates extensive gardens by landscape architect Ted Wolff along with a swimming pool and other amenities.
Straight on and at a distance, especially on a gray day, Aqua’s unique qualities can recede into the skyline.  Add light and come closer, and the visual engagement becomes almost hypnotic. The restless variability makes the building slippery to the gaze. Stand under one of its corners and look up: with no conventional grid points to visually lock onto, the surfaces of Aqua appear to be constantly in motion.
While its quick rise to prominence has made Aqua a lighting rod for controversy, its faults are those of just about every other residential tower in Chicago, a town where developers calculate room layouts down to the inch to maximize return on investment.  In its short life, Aqua has become indispensable. It continues to provoke discussions on the fundamental architectural questions – commerce versus imagination, sustainability versus transparency, density versus sprawl, and the balance between function and form – even as it has reinvigorated the Chicago skyline by introducing the new morphologies of 21st-century design.
—Lynn Becker, 3rd Edition of AIA Guide to Chicago

Aqua 

225 N. Columbus Dr.

2009, Studio Gang Architects, Design Arch., Loewenberg Architects, Arch. of Record

It took nearly half a century, but with the completion of Jeanne Gang’s Aqua, the towers of Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City finally have a true rival for the kind of visual audacity that makes a building a symbol of Chicago throughout the world.

Like Marina City, it is a mixed-use complex, combining condominiums, apartments, commercial space and a hotel.  Unlike Marina City, Aqua as a tower is the usual basic rectangular box.  What sets it apart is the remarkable way Gang has used the idea of a “vertical topography” to gave the face of the building a complex texture that “ungrids” the more conventional linearity that lies beneath. 

This is done through the edges of the floor slabs, which vary continuously from one floor to the next.  Where studies showed the best views (or the most need for sun shading), the slabs end in balconies, cantilevered out as much as 12 feet.   In other areas, balconies are as narrow as 2 feet, or are omitted altogether, and the curtain wall behind them deploys high-performance, more reflective glass to form “pools,” watery-looking voids resting within the vertical landforms of the rippling balconies.

Soon after its completion, Aqua received a large number of awards but also spawned a firestorm of debate over the building’s claims to sustainability. The most frequent critique was that the lack of thermal blocks allows the balcony slabs to channel the cold of a Chicago winter directly into the apartments.  Gang countered that the shading provided by the slabs makes the building more energy efficient in the summer, and that the curtain wall was designed to reduce both solar gain and the infiltration of unwanted air, while operable doors and windows increase natural ventilation.

Despite a striking cantilever-canopied entrance at the north end, the huge three-story podium that houses ballrooms and retail engages the street in a perfunctory manner.  On its roof, an 80,000-square-foot terrace incorporates extensive gardens by landscape architect Ted Wolff along with a swimming pool and other amenities.

Straight on and at a distance, especially on a gray day, Aqua’s unique qualities can recede into the skyline.  Add light and come closer, and the visual engagement becomes almost hypnotic. The restless variability makes the building slippery to the gaze. Stand under one of its corners and look up: with no conventional grid points to visually lock onto, the surfaces of Aqua appear to be constantly in motion.

While its quick rise to prominence has made Aqua a lighting rod for controversy, its faults are those of just about every other residential tower in Chicago, a town where developers calculate room layouts down to the inch to maximize return on investment.  In its short life, Aqua has become indispensable. It continues to provoke discussions on the fundamental architectural questions – commerce versus imagination, sustainability versus transparency, density versus sprawl, and the balance between function and form – even as it has reinvigorated the Chicago skyline by introducing the new morphologies of 21st-century design.

—Lynn Becker, 3rd Edition of AIA Guide to Chicago

Read more about - and purchase - the brand new third edition of the AIA Guide to Chicago by clicking  here.