Aqua Tower

Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois, Studio Gang Architects
Construction year: 2009
Address: N. Columbus Drive 211 | CHICAGO-ILLINOIS | United States
Latitude/Longitude: 41.8866, -87.6204

In an increasingly dense city like Chicago, views from a new tower must be negotiated between existing buildings. Aqua tower considers criteria such as views, solar shading and function to derive a vertical system of contours that gives the structure its sculptural form. Its vertical topography is defined by its outdoor terraces that gradually change in plan over the length of the tower. These terraces offer a strong connection to the outdoors and allow inhabitants to occupy the building façade and city simultaneously. The result is a highly sculptural building when viewed obliquely that transforms into a slender rectangle from further away. Its powerful form suggests the limestone outcroppings and geologic forces that shaped the great lakes region.


The Aqua Tower is located on the 200 block of North Columbus Drive, and is surrounded by high-rises. To capture views of nearby landmarks for Aquas residents, Gang stretched its balconies outward by as much as 12 feet (3.7 meters). The result is a building composed of irregularly shaped concrete floor slabs which lend the facade an undulating, sculptural quality. Gang cites the striated limestone outcroppings that are a common topographic feature of the Great Lakes region as inspiration for these slabs.


The building will contain 55,000 square feet (5,100 square meter) of retail and office space, in addition to 215 hotels rooms (floors 1-18), 476 rental residential units (floors 19-52), and 263 condominium units & Penthouses (floors 53-80). Aqua will also be the first downtown building to combine condos, apartments and a hotel. The name was assigned to the building by Magellan Development Group LLC. It fits the nautical theme of the other buildings in the Lakeshore East development, and is derived from the wave-like forms of the balconies; the towers proximity to nearby Lake Michigan also influenced the name.

Sustainability was also an important factor in Aquas design. Gang and her team refined the terrace extensions to maximize solar shading, and other sustainable features will include rainwater collection systems and energy-efficient lighting. The green roof on top of the tower base will be the largest in Chicago. The tower will seek LEED certification.

⇒ Architecture Guide to CHICAGO-ILLINOIS
⇒ Learn more about: