Gallery: Jeanne Gang’s Green-Roofed Aqua Tower Ripples Up Towards the C...

It was announced just this morning that architect Jeanne Gang is a 2011 award recipient of the $500,000 MacArthur Genius Grant. Gang, who leads her own firm, Studio Gang Architects, has best become know for her design of Chicago's Aqua Tower. The rippling,
 
It was announced just this morning that architect Jeanne Gang is a 2011 award recipient of the $500,000 MacArthur Genius Grant. Gang, who leads her own firm, Studio Gang Architects, has best become know for her design of Chicago's Aqua Tower. The rippling, water-inspired design stretches high into the sky and is topped off with a vast green roof, and since completion, it has become an iconic piece of architecture for the city. Moreover, the skyscraper is also the tallest building in the world to be designed by a woman. Hit jump for the story behind the spectacular tower that brings a sculptural edge to the bustling heart of Chicago.

Situated along Chicago’s Loop District, the Aqua is a distinct construction that sits amongst a slew of standard glass boxes. The building takes a form inspired by Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, which is manifested on its facade of rippling balconies on its surface. The ripples however are not random and were a carefully calculated addition that found many challenges with their integration. Each floor plate in Aqua is unique, ultimately making the construction of the building quite complicated. The inconsistent floor plates also created variations in unit sizes – while some people may have a balcony up to 12 feet wide, others find just inches extending from their feet.

The balcony overhangs do however serve an environmental purpose. They not only shade apartments from the hot summer sun, but also protect the building from the force of wind – one of the most challenging aspects of skyscraper engineering. The undulating facade effectively mitigates the heavy Chicago winds, breaking them down to such a degree that thet building doesn’t require a tuned mass damper to stabilize it against wind vibrations and sway. And even if small for some units, every floor up to the 82nd can make claim to a balcony – something that usually cannot be done above sixty floors given heavy winds.

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