SOM Chicago has won a competition to design a mixed-use tower in the new Chinese city of Suzhou. Located along a lake front, the tower includes a distinctive void carved out the upper portion of the tower, splitting the floorplates in half to better serve hotel uses. Offices will fill the lower, larger floorplates. “We’ve been doing these kinds of mixed-use towers since Hancock,” said Ross Wimer, a partner at SOM Chicago. “Instead of tapering the tower, we’ve carved away a slot to bring fresh air and light into the building.”
On Wednesday, federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood effectively killed Detroit’s planned light rail line, citing doubt about the city’s ability to build and maintain the project, given its dire finances and collapsing levels of density. He instead pushed for bus rapid transit along the Woodward Avenue corridor. Elsewhere, however, transit seems to be gaining traction. Read More
The architect/developer David Hovey has designed buildings in the Chicago suburbs as well as city neighborhoods outside of downtown. With the Optima Center Chicago, he is making a 42 story debut just north of the Loop. The luxury rental tower will have 325 units. Hovey is bullish on the building’s potential. “All our market research shows a lot of demand for rentals in that area,” he said of Streeterville. The units will sit on top of nine floors of parking as well as 20,000 square feet of commercial space. Hovey thinks the building’s location–walkable to the Loop, the Lake, and the Magnificent Mile–will make it appealing to upper-end renters. Amenities will include 10th floor recreation center and a sky deck on the 42nd floor concealed behind an ultra-smooth glass curtain wall.
While a number of new rental towers have been announced in recent months, Crain’s has an informative article about a number of Chicago condominium developers who are beginning to build again, albeit at a very small scale and in tightly phased sequences. Even for projects as small as 14 units, banks are demanding projects be split into two phases, six units first, followed by eight in a second building. Some developers are also willing to accept lower offers from buyers for higher down payments up front. The thinking reflects new stricter lending standards and continuing economic uncertainty. But with Chicago’s condo market still over-saturated and the foreclosure crisis just beginning to wane, it also reflects a much needed correction from previous patterns of over building and over lending. And, pardon me Mr. Burnham, but isn’t incremental city-making and infill development often the best approach?
Jürgen Mayer H.: Wirrwarr
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Through January 22, 2012
While the Berlin-based architect Jürgen Mayer H. is known for his highly sculptural, honeycomb-like buildings, such as the Metropol Parasol in Seville or the the Court of Justice in Hasselt, Belgium (above), one of his quirky obsessions is not as widely known: a fascination with secret codes and numbers encrypted into patterns. Used by institutions such as banks to ensure that sensitive information such as PINs and passwords are only visible to the recipient, these intricately patterned data sheets are largely unexamined. To Jürgen Mayer H., however, this visual expression of our fear of exposure and desire for protection is fascinating and relevant to architecture.
The new Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) building at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign uses the latest in sustainable technology and building practices in hopes of reaching not only LEED Platinum, but even zero net energy usuage. Designed by SmithGroup, the 230,000 square foot building is also meant to serve as a prototype for sustainable building across the campus. The ECE department is working toward a net zero building that will supply one hundred percent of its energy demands by incorporating renewable energy systems. The architects and engineers from KJWW have integrated a range of system, including an array of photovoltaic cells panels, displacement and demand control ventilation, heat recovery chillers with net metering, and a chilled beam system for cooling and heating the classroom tower. The building also features solar shading and a multi-hued terra cotta rainscreen over an R30 building envelope. Construction is expected to begin at the end of this year, with an estimated completion date of fall 2014.
Still riding the wave of publicity following her recent MacArthur genius grant win, Jeanne Gang gets the full star treatment from Chicago’s public TV station WTTW. This documentary, “Jeanne Gang: The Sky’s the Limit,” is all praise. Blair Kamin and Stanley Tigerman figure as her head cheerleaders. It would have been nice to have someone puncture the bubble a bit, possibly interrogating Gang about architect’s limits, rather than merely presenting the discipline (and Gang as one of its leading lights) as a environmental and societal savior. The documentary does show some engaging glimpses of Studio Gang’s working methods and office style, so there’s plenty to enjoy, even for the (mild) skeptics.