Chicago’s Aqua Makes Cut of Elite International Skyscrapers

The internationally-acclaimed mixed-use Aqua tower (previously) that anchors Chicago’s rising Lakeshore East neighborhood has been selected one of five finalists for an International Highrise Award. It is the only U.S. representative. The Aqua tower, designed by Studio Gang Architects for developer Magellan Development Group was, selected by an international jury of architects, engineers and property specialists by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany. The residential highrise was also recently honored as Skyscraper of the Year by Emporis, the international building database.

The prestigious international architectural prize for high-rises, now in its fourth year, is open to architects and engineers whose buildings must be at least 100 meters (328 feet) high. On the basis of extensive research Deutsches Architekturmuseum nominated 27 high-rise projects from 16 countries for the competition. The jury judged the structures along six fundamental criteria: pioneering design, aesthetics, integration with the urban setting, sustainability, innovative technology and cost efficiency. In social, urban and also in ecological terms, the five finalists were selected for demonstrating “a positive trend that has the opportunity of exploring new building forms.”

“Whether commercial, residential or conceived as a vertical ‘city within a city,’ our five finalists are all examples of mixed-use high-rise buildings,” said Spencer de Grey, jury chairman and head of design at Foster + Partners, London.

The jury noted that Aqua, as does co-finalist The Met in Bangkok, addresses the concept of high-rise living outdoors and in green settings to develop new, unusual designs. The buildings over 200-meters with balconies, terraces and communal open spaces fostered an augmented, vertical way of life which delivers long-term savings in energy resources.

photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing

In addition to Aqua, the other 2010 finalists are: Burj Khalifa (Dubai, SOM), Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (Tokyo, Tange Associates), The Met (Bangkok, WOHA Architects & Tandem Architects) and Shanghai World Financial Center (Shanghai, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates).

The curvaceous Aqua tower designed by the Studio Gang team headed by Jeanne Gang with Magellan affiliate Loewenberg Architects as architects of record was inspired for form by the eroded shoreline of the Great Lakes. Situated at 225 N. Columbus Drive, the 82-story tower is the first high-rise in Chicago specifically designed to combine distinctive residential, hotel and retail spaces. Carlson Hotels, one of the world’s leading hotel companies, will develop its first Radisson Blu in the United States in the Aqua tower. As part of its long-range growth strategy Carlson is planning to establish upscale Radisson Blu hotels in major U.S. cities and declares the Radisson Blu Aqua as a major step towards realizing that goal.

Already proclaimed Chicago’s most exciting new architectural landmark, Aqua’s amenities package is equally imposing, offering an 80,000-square-foot eco-friendly outdoor deck with lush gardens, gazebos, pools and cabañas, a running track and natural gas fire pit and grills. As a result of its unique design, Aqua’s residences command dramatic views of three of Chicago’s greatest attractions: Lake Michigan, the Chicago River and Millennium Park.

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