“Aqua Tower” … not all that!

Posted in opinion, other architects, projects by DS26 on 07.20.2010

“Aqua this…”  “Aqua that…”

So overly exposed, the new high-rise in Chicago has given a name to a woman owned and ran architecture practice, and it has caused serious commotion worldwide. Magazine covers, prizes, lectures, additional work, etc.

We, in part, do give Studio Gang credit because the simplicity of the solution, in terms of construction, has generated a (mostly) very aesthetic piece… one that most people do love (especially in Chicago).

I actually, in disagreement with BobbyZ, found the conceptual video compelling. I like to see datums that are brought in from significant city points to the project in question, and found quite interesting and complex that they no longer held to only the X & Y planes, but transcended into including Z.

[ Aqua Concept Video ]

In Bobby’s mind though, it was just an explanation after the fact, one that did not make so much sense.

“Laser beams melting a stick of butter…” – BobbyZ.

Much better, simpler, is the fact that maybe it emulates the river ?! Hence Aqua. Why so complicated ?!

With that said, we will tell you why we think is just  “not all that!”

Up close, it’s great. Just look at the picture above, and even closer, as in from the units’ balconies out toward the city, that much better. Very “sexy”, as Jeanne said herself during a published construction visit video clip.

From afar though, the beauty of the curvaceous slabs begins to, say… disappear.

As a matter of fact, even further, it gets completely lost. I did make a point to observe from the red line window.

Notice, in the picture above, the “gap” mid height of the tower. For some reason a double space, slab-less part had to be created. I would have guessed HVAC equipment, except it is enclosed with a curtain wall… that now makes me not sure of the intention.

Whatever the reason may be, it breaks the beauty that is created by the vertical continuity of the “curvaceous slabs”.

Also we find that the tower #fails at touching the ground. Again, an issue of the aesthetic continuity.

Being (as we are) big mid-century modern fans, Mies certainly, his work and the Chicago work of that time was concerned, always, with the way the building touched the ground. Opening views to the water, and allowing people to see and appreciate beyond the building was a must.

What the heck happened here ? …

One last negative, and this is back to my view from the red line, I found this intrusive, hideous, white box that sits at the very top, of-centered even, of the tower. You guessed it, this time it is an equipment room (& I now that for a fact), made of concrete.

I am not going to judge which way it should have been resolved. I know what we, in our (future) office would have done… but we were not a part of this project.

Like BobbyZ additionally so accurately expressed… “Still a developer’s project”, so maybe it was no longer up to the Architects to decide…

If we take Sears ( I could never call it ‘Willis’ ) or the John Hancock Tower…

unlike Aqua…

they begin, continue,and end  flawlessly…


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  1. […] Tabitha : If I had to guess… I would say Aqua cost around $200-300 million.  [ our take on Aqua ] […]

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