Cool Building Wednesday: Aqua Tower

April 7, 2010


(photo by Lee Bey)

The new 82-story Aqua Tower, designed by architect Jeanne Gang of Studio/Gang Architects.


(photo by Lee Bey)

I can hear you. "Sure, it's a cool building, Lee. But aren't you a little late to the party? Everybody and their mama has written about Aqua." Well, that's true. And here's a Q&A I did with Gang more‚ than two years ago on Aqua, 225 N. Columbus, for my old Urban Observer blog while the tower was still under construction.

Q. How did Studio/Gang arrive at Aqua's unique look? Was it there from the beginning or did it morph into this shape as designs were refined?

A: The design concept was there from the beginning. The idea was to make the face of the building occupiable which is achieved through extending the floor slabs. Slabs are extended more in some areas to allow site specific views. The shapes were continuously adjusted throughout the design process to coordinate with floor plans, ADA, and to maintain smooth transitions from floor to floor.

Q: What particular elements have to be pulled off just right in order to make the building sing, if you will?

A: The most important thing is the concrete and it is already clear that the contractor, McHugh, is doing a great job with that. Next is the glass. We were very careful to select the glass for its performance as well as its color and and reflectivity. As the building goes up, you will start to notice there are different types of glass used, and a very subtle pattern will develop.

Q:What's been the reaction to Aqua far from the public and your fellow professionals?

A. I am just getting back from Dubai where I presented the building at the "Tall and Green" international conference for [the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat]. I am learning that the tall building club is very small, dominated by the larger, more corporate firms. It is unique that we were given the opportunity to design one and I am glad we were able to bring a fresh perspective. After this conference, I wouldn't be surprised to see the design copied and reproduced in China.‚  I think it has sparked the imagination of the public. I only say that because of the emails and inquiries I've received from lots of different people from all over. It has been published in Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, and the UAE.

Q: An 82-story skyscraper is an unusual project for your firm. How much does Aqua define where the firm goes next? Are there more skyscrapers in the offing?

A:It demonstrates we can achieve large technically complex buildings.We want to do projects that are interesting and where there is architectural ambition. I think there is untapped potential in the tall building type and I hope we will have the opportunity to take it further.


(photo by Lee Bey)