Chicago architecture has always been at the forefront of the industry. And its iconic skyline is a testament to that excellence.
In this article, I will show you some of the best skyscrapers that have made Chicago an architectural icon in the new century.
Chicago’s iconic skyline is a trendsetter in urban architecture.
It’s home to impressive towers of soaring glass and steel.
And these skyscrapers are some of the best in the world.
So let’s get down to business. Here are the top 5 most iconic skyscrapers in Chicago.
1.) 150 North Riverside
First - On a two-acre site on the west bank of the Chicago River sits 150 N. Riverside, a 54-story building.
It is conspicuously situated where the three branches of the Chicago River meet and is close to one of the busiest commuter rail stations in Chicago.
25% of the building is leasable office space and the remaining 75 percent contains outdoor seating areas, a park, an amphitheater, and a riverwalk.
A number of enormous tanks, referred to as "tuned liquid sloshing dampers," hidden in the upper floors of 150 North Riverside, contain 160,000 gallons of water. These specialized liquid tanks aid in significantly dampening and reducing the building's sway.
Due to the building's many eco-friendly elements, it has already received the LEED-Gold certification, which is given to structures that use resources efficiently.
Completed in 2017, the building joins River Point and Wolf Point West at the confluence of the north and south branches and the main stem of the river.
As it earns its place among Chicago's great architecture and engineering marvels, 150 North Riverside also serves as an example of how new technologies and inventive solutions can be used to solve decades-old problems, including building skyscrapers on tiny lots previously considered "unbuildable."
2.) St. Regis Chicago (formerly Vista Towers)
Next is St. Regis Chicago, formerly known as Vista Towers.
This is a trio of interconnected glass towers with both residential and hotel amenities, from one-bedroom homes to five-bedroom penthouses.
The tower, which defines a new city border, closely ties the downtown Lakeshore East neighborhood to its surroundings with previously unheard-of urban connections and improved public access to the Chicago River.
It is currently the third-tallest structure on Chicago's skyline.
The buildings’ general flowing aspect, which shifts regularly in and out of plane, is the result of an alternate geometry between the three connected sections.
Because of the building's size, corner views are highlighted and there is a variety of heights for green space.
The main feature is the “blow-through floor” located on the 83rd floor of the building.
The blow-through floor will, as its name suggests, remain largely open, allowing winds to pass through and preventing the building's three connected towers from wobbling excessively under the impact.
After work had begun, a model of the slim, exquisite building designed by renowned architect Jeanne Gang was placed in a wind tunnel for research, which revealed the necessity for a blow-through floor.
The 24-foot vertical grates on the blow-through floor are evenly spaced out and complement the neighboring floors' window hues.
It also earned these awards:
Award of Excellence, Best Tall Building 300-399 meters, CTBUH Awards, 2022
Award of Excellence, Best Mixed-Use Building, CTBUH Awards, 2022
3.) 800 Fulton Market
In one of Chicago's busiest, most vibrant, and expanding areas, you can find 800 Fulton Market, which takes its name from the Fulton Market District.
It’s designed with "pandemic-responsive aspects".
For instance, touchless elevators, real-time supportive smart building systems, and seven planted terraces allow for both indoor and outdoor working.
800 Fulton Market is indeed the smartest building in Chicago.
This 18-story building is composed of both office and retail spaces. To be exact, its 472,000 RSF includes 431,500 Office RSF and 35,000 Retail RSF.
800 Fulton Market is designed for LEED Platinum Certification, and awarded with the WELL Gold Certification and Wired Score Platinum.
The structure is engineered to compress in cooler weather and expand in warmer weather in order to resist Chicago's harsh winters and powerful winds.
The row of tiered terraces pays respect to and takes design cues from "the rhythm and scale" of the neighborhood's historic low-rise streetscapes and the densely packed high rises in downtown Chicago.
Residents can have easy access to the outdoors thanks to spacious outdoor areas that have been strategically landscaped with local trees and plants.
4.) Aqua Tower
The fourth iconic skyscraper in Chicago is also another mixed-use structure.
It combines a hotel, offices, rental apartments, condominiums, and parking.
Aqua Tower, one of the few big structures with a community on its exterior, is 82 floors tall and reaches a height of 876 feet.
In order to capture and reinterpret the human and outdoor interactions that happen more naturally when residing closer to the earth, the Aqua design leverages architecture.
However, its sinuous curve is more than just a decorative flourish; it also serves as a means of maximizing solar shade and extending the vistas.
And by looking at the plans, we can see a logical design that stays loyal to Mies's influence on the city.
Sustainability played a significant role in the design of Aqua.
To maximize solar shading, Gang and her team improved the terrace extensions.
Other environmentally friendly elements include a water-efficient irrigation system and energy-efficient lighting.
One of Chicago's biggest green roofs is found atop the tower base.
The skyscraper has a LEED-NC certification.
Aqua Tower has earned several accolades, including:
Great Places, AIA Illinois, 2018
International Highrise Award Finalist, Deutsches Architekturmuseum, 2010
Honor Award, Distinguished Building, AIA Chicago, 2010
Skyscraper of the Year, Emporis, 2009
Annual Design Review Honorable Mention, Architect Magazine, 2009
“Proggy” Award, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 2009
American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2008
5.) Marina City
After more than ten years of suburban flight, Bertrand Goldberg envisioned Marina City as an urban experiment to entice middle-class Chicagoans back to the city.
With Marina City, Goldberg hoped to capitalize on the advantages of living and playing close to one's place of employment.
After all, the mixed-use facility, which was finished in 1967, contained two residential towers in addition to an office building, a theater, parking for cars and boats, and a lot of retail space.
The residential rebirth of American inner cities is widely recognized as having started with Marina City, the nation's first post-war urban high-rise residential complex.
Its paradigm of high-rise skyscrapers with a base of parking, mixed residential and commercial purposes, and mixed-use buildings has become the de facto standard for urban development in the United States and around the globe.
The residential skyscrapers are renowned for their fast elevators as well.
The distance between the lower-level lobby and the 61st-story roof decks is about 33 seconds.
Chicago’s skyline is iconic, offering unparalleled views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. They also come equipped with best-in-class features and amenities for Chicagoans to enjoy. And this excellent urban architecture makes Chicago a great place to invest in real estate.
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