Tower called Wanda may soar above Chicago

Tower called Wanda may soar above Chicago

by BLAIR KAMINChicago Tribune | April 14, 2015

The outlines of what could be Chicago's third-tallest skyscraper came into sharp focus April 13 when the project's developers unveiled their latest plan for Wanda Vista — a trio of interconnected high-rises that would bring stacks of undulating glass to the city's skyline.

Backed by China's Wanda Group and Chicago's Magellan Development Group, the new version of the tower retains the three-tiered profile, first shown in 2014, but adds a cloak of light-reflecting, blue-green glass and eliminates inset balconies that resembled zippers on its most visible façades.

Details about the plan, designed by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects, were revealed to a standing-room only crowd of about 500 people at the Gang-designed Aqua Tower in Lakeshore East.

At 1,144 ft (350 m), the skyscraper would be eight feet taller than the city's current third-tallest building, the Aon Center, provided it conforms to the standards of the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. CTBUH arbitrates height disputes like the one in 2013 involving the controversial spire at New York's One World Trade Center.

The tower, expected to cost more than $950 million and be completed in 2019, will need city approval because its proposed height would be some 500 ft (150 m) taller than the ceiling specified in the Lakeshore East development plan.

According to the CTBUH, a building's height is measured "from the level of the lowest, significant, open-air pedestrian entrance to the architectural top of the building." Executive director, Antony Wood, wrote in an email April 13 that Gang's firm had not yet submitted drawings of the tower for verification, so CTBUH could not determine the building's height.

If CTBUH were to rule that the ground-level entrance did not meet its criteria and the tower winds up being measured from its Upper Wacker Drive entrance, it would be considered 1,094 ft (333 m) tall. That would make it Chicago's fifth-tallest building, ranking behind Willis Tower (442.1 m),  the Trump International Hotel & Tower (423.2 m), the Aon Center (346.3 m), and the Hancock Center (343.7 m).

Whatever its official height, the tower would dominate the view for drivers on northbound Lake Shore Drive, as new renderings show. It would also be the world's tallest building designed by a woman-owned firm, according to CTBUH.

The author is a Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic. E-mail:

Below is a gallery of renderings from Studio Gang Architects.

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