The Smurfit Building, Chicago IL

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Did you know that this skyscraper is the one chicagoans make more jokes about? Despite it, its shape is among their favorite in the Skyline!

The Smurfit-Stone Building is a 41-story skyscraper with a total height of 582 foot – 177 meter. Its privileged location at the magnificent Michigan Avenue on the corner of Millennium Park gives great visibility and highlights its original and uncommon shape: The slanted diamond roof. Designed by Epstein and Sons its construction began in 1983 and was completed in less than a year!

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View from “The Bean” in Millennium Park

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Smurfit’s back and amazing view over Millenium Park

The Smurfit is an office building cleverly designed according to its context: the service cores are rotated 45 degress from the street grid, producing diagonally-oriented office floorplans to take advantage of the extraordinary southeast views over Millennium Park. Who wouldn’t like to work there with such an inspiring cityscape?  Although the best office space would be in the pent house the five top floors are actually unused, they hold the facilities and the HVAC equipment.

But why this building stands out so much?

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Because from its diamond shaped roof the building started to be referred as “The Vagina Building” from the locally popular but apocryphal story that, with its prominent vertical slit up the front, the building was designed to be a feminine counter to the phallicism of most skyscrapers. At night is highlighted with an outline of white light bulbs, and around holidays they are replaced with coloured lights depending on the festivity: orange-Thanksgiving, green/red-Christmas, pink-Valentine’s day…

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The famous diamond slanted roof

Although the building looks as though it is split down the middle, the two sides are only slightly disjointed until nearing the top where there is a gap between them. At times, its slanted roof – which has been likened to a skyscraper slashed with a knife – displays local sports slogans on its face, such as “GO BEARS” or “GO SOX”

Despite all popular jokes the Smurfit Building really gives a beautifully feminine touch to the city and this original shape enriches even more the architectural variety of Chicago’s Skyline. What do you think?

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Hope you plan a visit and enjoy the experience! We would love to see and share your pictures and anecdotes with the Skyliner community 😉

Safe travels!!

Aon Center: Elegance and Contrast

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Aon Center from Art Institute Ramp. Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Gehry in front.

We’ve talked about Sears Tower and Trump Tower which are the  two highest buildings in Chicago. Now is time to talk about Aon Center, the third highest building in the city.
Designed in 1974 by architect firms Edward Durell Stone and The Perkins and Will partnership it has 83 floors and a height of 1,136 feet (346 m). At the time of its completion, this was the fourth-tallest building in the world and  the world’s tallest marble-clad building (being sheathed entirely with 43,000 slabs of Carrara marble). The disposition of the slabs compose a series of vertical stripes that add extra visual height to its already impressive stature.

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Main access of Aon Center

However, this wasn’t the most appropriate system since little after the building was completed its facade began to buckle. Stainless steel straps were wrapped around the building to keep any large chunks from falling off. It was all replaced with white granite at a very very very high cost (half what it cost to build the tower).

Skyline Architecture Blog- Aon Center-5Façade Detail

The building’s stone facade provides such contrast against the other buildings that as Chicago skyline grows, it becomes more prevalent, providing three dimensional form.
Aon Center has a sunken plaza in front of the building with extensive fountain work. This creates an area that is a pleasure for people on hot summer days, while at the same time protects the building from would-be truck bombers.
Its structure is based on a tubular steel-framed structural system with V-shaped perimeter columns that not only reduce sway but also minimize column bending and maximize column-free space. Therefore it resists earthquakes. This construction method was also used for the World Trade Center Towers (NY).

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Corner Detail

And you are wondering, what do people see from this building? Height and location give the Aon Center’s users remarkable views in all directions. People facing south look over Grant Park; people with west-facing windows can look at The Loop; people with eastern exposures are treated to Lake Michigan sunrises and boating activities; and people on the northern face get to look up the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago coastline.

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Mirror views from “The Bean” by Anish Kapoor

If you happen to see the building at night, you could observe that the top floors are lit with specific colours depending on the season: Orange-Thanksgiving, green/red-Christmas, and pink-National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The lighting commonly matches the nighttime lighting on the antenna of Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center and the upper floors of the Merchandise Mart.

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Nigth views

Its elegance has inspired other quiet, dignified supertall buildings such as the First Canadian Place (Toronto) and Picasso Tower (Madrid). Have a look.
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At this point, does Aon Tower look familiar to you in other aspects? If you are a cinema geek you would know that this was one of the filming locations for the 2011 movie Transformers 3.
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Enjoy your Aon Center visit and feel free to share your experience with the Skyliners! Safe travels!!

Lake Shore Drive Apartments: Less is More

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Did you know Mies van der Rohe design for these towers was initially not accepted because it was considered to be too extreme?
Curiously the mentality shifted over the years and this advanced aesthetics were copied extensively, being considered now characteristic of the modern International Style as well as essential for the development of modern High-tech architecture.
The materials are common: steel, aluminum and glass. Yet what made these building so special was the structural clarity and composition, which followed his principle “less is more” as it is demonstrated in his self-proclaimed “skin and bones” architecture.

Skyline Architecture- Lake Shore Drive by Mies-2 “the bones” Construction process – Lake Shore Drive apartments

With its 254 ft (82 m) height and 26 floors, the project was completed in 1951. Each building alone is symmetrical with a total of 288 apartments, one tower with three bedroom apt. and the other one with one bedroom apt., over the years many of the units have been combined to enlarge living spaces.

The disposition of the two plans is perpendicular creating and interesting dynamism between them and offering a great variety of breathtaking views, either overlooking Lake Michigan or Downtown Chicago.

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​Sketch of the views Mies van der Rohe was imagining for the apts.

Mies architecture didn’t rely on applied ornamentation, but rather on clarity of form achieved through elegant proportions and exacting detail. Prior to his manifesto, structure was commonly hidden within architecture. Here instead, Mies merged the two by exposing the steel, realizing his own believes: “When technology reaches its true fulfillment, it transcends into architecture.”

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Pictures of the Mies van der Rohe Society

At Skyline Architecture we were very happy to have the opportunity to visit these two towers of such historical importance. We were completed amazed by Mies van der Rohe work, from the urban layout, to the innovative aesthetics and perfect detailing. Here are some of our pics!

SONY DSCThe two towers relation
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The ground floor
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Welcoming canopy
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The entrance
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Mies van der Rohe furniture – Lobby
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Materiality
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Corner Detailing
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We thought it was quite impressive to be up there! Definitively worth a visit for its historic importance and architecture greatness. If you would also like to see the breathtaking interiors check this pics from http://www.chicagomag.com
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​​Enjoy your visit and feel free to share your experience with the Skyliners! Safe travels!!

Aqua Tower: New architectural icon in Chicago’s skyline

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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.

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

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North East Views

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North West Views

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South Views- Aon Tower and Millenium Park
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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.

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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!!