Studio Gang Delivers ‘Tide and True’ Functionality to Chicago’s Aqua Tower

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Aqua Tower’s rippled design exterior projects the appearance of moving waves.

The 87-story Aqua Tower is a fresh addition to Chicago’s skyline. But a closer look from within the Windy City’s East Lakeshore neighborhood reveals the sculpted structure’s special character—a vertical topography exterior that draws people to and from the high-rise like a powerful riptide.

Aqua Tower

Aqua Tower’s rippled design exterior projects the appearance of moving waves.

Shaped by the urban city forces, the tower’s uniqueness revolves around community—and water—both perceived and real. Blocks from Lake Michigan and Millennium Park, the Aqua Tower displays a unique design where virtual water inconceivably swells up the building’s façade. This wave-like effect is created by fluid exterior contours, sinuous outdoor terraces, and blueish glass—which together give the appearance that the tower is undulating. Aqua Tower is an imaginative, modern illusion rooted in function and aesthetically-inspired by nature.

Aqua Tower

Ironically, the best vantage point may be from inside the Aqua Tower units. The high-rise offers sweeping views from the twining terraces that allow residents and tenants to inhabit the façade and the outdoors. No two balconies are alike. From floor to floor, terraces (cantilevered up to 12 feet) inflect based on view, solar shading, and size and type of dwelling. The tower also boasts Chicago’s largest recreation deck—an 80,000 square-foot area with an outdoor pool, running track, gardens, fire pits, and a yoga terrace.

Aqua Tower's fire pit on the 80,000-square-foot recreation deck.

Aqua Tower’s fire pit on the 80,000-square-foot recreation deck.

Aqua Tower is a 1.9 million square-foot mixed-use high-rise showcasing 24% luxury rental apartments (floors 19 to 52); 21% condominiums (floors 53 to 80); 14% hotel rooms (floors 4 to 18); 3% offices and retail; and underground parking. Contoured exteriors flow into contemporary studio, convertible, one- or two-bedroom luxury apartments that rent for $1,900 to 4,000 per month, according to Magellan. Finishes include floor-to-ceiling windows, tiled entries, full granite kitchens with contemporary wood cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and in-home laundry.

Luxury 1-bedroom units range from $2,500 to $3,000 per month

Luxury one-bedroom units range from $2,500 to $3,000 per month

Launched in 2004 and completed in 2010, the $350 million building is the brainchild of lead architect Jeanne Gang and her Chicago-base firm, Studio Gang Architects. Studio Gang partnered with Magellan Development Group LLC and Loewenberg Architects on the ambitious project. Aqua Tower is more than a pretty façade. A 2010 Distinguished Building Honor Award winner (AIA Chicago), the tower’s strong identity makes it a landmark addition to the Chicago skyline.

Aqua Tower

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