Aqua Tower | The Plan
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Aqua Tower

Studio Gang Architects

Chicago is the most American of America’s great cities, the boldest and the least pretentious. Its unsurpassed collection of high-rises clusters around the Chicago River, then spreads north along Michigan Avenue as a heterogeneous array of skyscrapers parallel to that inland sea, Lake Michigan. Close to where the Chicago River flows beneath several bridges to meet the Great Lake, and just north of Millennium Park with Renzo Piano’s new addition to the Chicago Art Institute (one of America’s outstanding museums) and Frank Gehry’s arching lattice for the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (an outdoor music venue), a new tower has taken its place in the rich urban panorama. Its name is Aqua and its architects are the up-and-coming local practice, Studio Gang.
Aqua is a symbol of a more discerning ambition on the part of Chicago’s real estate culture and signals the maturation of an important young practice on the Chicago scene. Eighty-two stories high, Aqua is distinguishable from its immediate neighbors due to a remarkable exterior surface, an epidermis of projecting floor plates that billow out to form extensive, curvilinear balconies and recede back to disappear against the ubiquitous, rectilinear glass curtain wall. Slim in section and almost uniformly white, these constantly morphing floor plates animate the great bulk of the tower. The profile sashays upward like some outlandish geological extrusion. Shadows play off the bright crisp soffits which read more emphatically than the virtually invisible, skinny metal balustrades. Where the balconies recede and dissolve into the tower’s curtain wall, long linear expanses of glass appear on the façade as vertical pools of light and reflective surface, not unlike “finger lakes” in a rolling landscape.
The big sky, constantly in motion above the Windy City, is not only mirrored in these glazed recesses, the totality of the tower with its rippled profile and kinetic play between sunlight and shadow suggests kinship with the...

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