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.
Skyline Architecture Blog- Aon Center-First Canadian PlaceSkyline Architecture Blog- Aon Center-Torre Picasso

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.”

Skyline Architecture- Lake Shore Drive by Mies-5Mies perfect detailing lead to prefabrication and quick assembling
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

The ground floor
Welcoming canopy

The entrance

Mies van der Rohe furniture – Lobby

Corner Detailing

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
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​​Enjoy your visit and feel free to share your experience with the Skyliners! Safe travels!!