Aqua Tower: New architectural icon in Chicago’s skyline

Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower 1

Did you know the Aqua Tower is the is the tallest building in the United States designed by a woman: Architect Jeanne Gang​? It was finished by 2009 and it is 250m tall.

Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower Skyline
Skyline picture -Aqua Tower on the right, Lake Point Tower on the left

Spectacular Aqua Tower has a rectangular shaped floor plan which integrates terraces in a sculptural form. These undulating terraces simulate the water movement and are sometimes cantilevered up to 3.5 meters. Through these terraces and itswinding forms, each floor of the building is entirely different. Isn’t it a beautiful façade concept?​​
Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower Balcony Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower
Amazing balcony photographs – Views of Aon Center from this terrace

So what does this curious exterior contain? Out of the 82-stories…
– 215 hotels rooms (floors 1-18)
– 476 rental residential units (floors 19-52)
– 263 condominium units & Penthouses (floors 53-80)
– 55,000 square feet (5,100 m2) of retail and office space
– 6 levels of underground parking.
– 8-story base (140,000 sqf, 13,000m2) with a a 82,550 sq ft (7,669 m2) terrace with gardens, gazebos, pools, hot tubs, a walking/running track and fire pit.
Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower Plan

Floor Plan Diagram
Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower Study
Construction process

The design process for the façade and its construction consists of a curtain wall system.  The column grid integrates the terraces with the pools (space just for windows) resulting in an outstanding architectural composition that simulates water waves. Visual perception of this optical effect on the façade is more evident if we look at the building at its street level or mid-range.
Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower Façade Studio

Besides the compositional aspect of the façade, Studio Gang wanted to create outstanding  outdoor private spaces from which to live and enjoy the city. The diagram above shows the relationship between the gaps and the views from each point.
Hard to choose which apartment enjoys the best panorama of Chicago, right?
​But this sinuous shape is not just a mere formal gesture, it is also a strategy to extend the views and maximize solar shading. While these terraces create interesting spaces, they work as well as a brise-soleil system that provides shade into some parts of the building.
062799_017alt01Harbor Park- East Views

Loved the East views? Wait to see the others…
Chicago’s Skyline is amazing no matter the orientation!

Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower Views
North East Views

Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower North Views
North West Views

Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower South Views
South Views- Aon Tower and Millenium Park
Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower Roof Top
Rooftop and Lake Michigan
Skyline Architecture Blog_ Aqua Tower InteriorClassic Interiors – Reflected at the plans, we see a rational structure, true to the Mies legacy in the city.

Some architects claim that is not so much about living in an amazing building but about having an amazing building in front of yours. Like this, the views are spectacularly rewarding.
But what about being an outstanding building and having 360º amazing views?
Aqua Tower has both.

League of Giants
We thought it was a quite impressive building!
Enjoy your Aqua Tower visit and feel free to share your experience with the Skyliners! Safe travels!!



7 thoughts on “Aqua Tower: New architectural icon in Chicago’s skyline

  1. I find this aesthetically pleasing, and a change from so much brutalist architecture. Thanks for the post.

    Tell me, do many new structures have brise-soleil features? I see that the building in your ‘Rooftop and Lake Michigan’ photo seems to have them on one side at least.

    • We are glad you liked it. Yes, we are now living a “green architecture” period, which means that architects are trying to make buildings more energetically efficient and that implies maximizing their energy savings. Brise-soleils are one simple and very effective method to protect buildings from the excess of sun radiation.

    • Chicago has very extreme weathers both in winter and in summer so some shading devices are very necessary in order to save energy. The Aqua Tower uses its shape as a shading tool like some other buildings in Chicago, but not many new buildings have brise-soleils.

      • Thanks for this. Sadly, even though globally we seem to be facing more extreme weather conditions, here in Britain it may be warmer overall but also wetter, and we need not brise-soleils but brise-pluies. Roofs I suppose…

  2. Pingback: 23 Buildings You Shouldn’t Miss in Chicago If You Are An Architect | Virginia Duran

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