Cooler by the lake: The architecture of 320 W. Oakdale

February 6, 2012

In a town that celebrates its postwar modernist high-rises, the residential building at 320 W. Oakdale is a might overlooked.

Built in 1954, the 21-story tower has remarkable floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap the box like glass bands. And look at how those concrete floor slabs overhang, providing shade and passive cooling during the high summer sun. The building's Chicago-born architect, Milton Schwartz, was 29 when 320 W. Oakdale was completed. It's a nifty piece of work, especially for an architect so young. Schwartz originally intended the building to be circular--and this would have been just before Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City--as would have been his 36-story Hotel 71 (which opened as the Executive House in 1958) at 71 E. Wacker. In order get get financing, both buildings wound up as boxes, but no worse for the wear.

In the photo below, 320 W. Oakdale creates a dead-end on Commonwealth Avenue. The narrow street provides a nice vista to the building. Schwartz owned the penthouse there until his death in 2007.

In the 1960s, Schwartz became chief architect of Las Vegas' Dunes Hotel. The building was demolished--spectacularly, as you'll see below--in 1993. But look closely, and you can see horizontal bands of windows not unlike those found in 320 W. Oakdale and the Executive House:

Finally, in a discovery that might lead me to start playing the lottery tonight, I found there are units for sale at 320 W. Oakdale. One real estate salesman dug up an original 1950s brochure for the building, featuring an airy and beautiful rendering of the structure. Unit layouts and a list of amenities are also there.