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

The tower was actually first designed as a hotel, but ailing economic factors required the building to be turned into a apartment complex. As such, the building hosts expansive views of the city, Millennium Park, and it's inspiration, sparkling Lake Michigan. The building also maintains a swimming pool, sky gardens, running tracks, open-air hot tubs, a library and a billiard room. The tower's garden roof is actually one of Chicago's most extensive. Gang's love for avian also found its way into the design. The architect paid close attention to how birds navigate in urban environments and react in the face of different materials. The complex facade design helps birds pick up on irregularities in their path, signaling for them to avoid the building.

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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