Chicago's skyline Perkins up

Stephanie Hunt
Wednesday 29 Dec 2010

Perkin and Will's latest condominium aims to animate Chicago's South Loop vicinity

Located in the South Loop neighbourhood on the southern edge of the central business district of Downtown Chicago, 235 Van Buren contains studios, one- and two-bedroom condominiums targeting people entering the real estate market.

Its architecture is divided into two masses as a response to two site conditions; the first condition, to the north, is the densely infilled context of the Chicago "Loop." The second condition, to the south, is an open space created by a freeway and major traffic interchange which contains a small park. The articulation of the masses is distinctly different to respond to these conditions. The southern glass façade and random balconies provide a backdrop to the open space created by the traffic interchange. A ribbon of concrete frames this wall, undulating to define penthouse units and providing a large-scale gesture to the expressway and the city. The random balconies express the individuality of the units, provide a kinetic image from the freeway and help shade the south facing glass. The northern façade is a grid of rectangular openings with inset balconies. This relates the building back to the historic Chicago Loop and the frame-expressed architecture of the "Chicago School."

To make them more affordable, most of the 714 units are designed with borrowed-light bedrooms behind living spaces with ten-foot ceilings to form a loft-like living arrangement. This allows the building to be wider than the standard residential tower and reduce exterior enclosure costs. Dividing the tower into two slabs also reduces the effect of this extra width. This concept also provides an urban space at the street corner which relates to an existing plaza on the opposite corner and pronounces the entry to the residences.


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