Architecture: Sedimentary skyscraper

(January 2010) Use of natural stone as a building element is our running theme. But so far we didn’t stop to think or write about stone as a source of inspiration where other building materials are used.

Chicago’s Aqua Tower is built like a conventional skyscraper using steal, concrete and glass. But its unusual balconies are inspired by limestone sedimentary rock as is found around North America’s Great Lakes.

The 324 m-high, 80-story building gains an organic, even animated look well adapted to the Windy City. Moreover the large surfaces without balconies as seen from street level have the appearance of mirroring water surfaces.

Jeanne Gang was the architect. She characterizes the balcony idea as an „inhabited façade“, meaning that the jutting balcony surfaces not only enlarge the living area optically but also quite practically. The shapes of the façade were chosen in harmony with the cardinal directions to maximize sunlight. The extra costs of the balconies were relatively low at 1,5% of the total costs of 325 million USD.

Remains to be seen whether tenants will make use of the balconies in Spiderman style unscathed by the sheer drop behind the midriff-high balustrade.

Studio Gang Architects

The Guardian

Chicago Tribune

Video (1, 2)

Photos: Steve Hall/Studio Gang Architects