Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA l L.Architecture l Aqua's Roof Garden

This is Aqua:

It's a nearly-complete residential tower in Chicago's brand new Lakeshore East mega-development, designed by Studio Gang and obviously best known for those undulating (aquatically-inspired, might we say) balconies. Images of this groundbreaking addition to Chicago's venerable skyline are hardly rare, but less well known is this:

It's a 80,000 square foot roof garden on top of the third floor. The rendering is by Loewenberg Architects, a local firm that is primarily the design arm of Aqua's development company. The garden itself is the work of Wolff Landscape Architecture, whose offices are mere blocks away on Michigan Avenue.

A few weeks ago, I toured it with Wolff's Ben Baker, who gave me the stats: a 1/5 mile running track, pool, fire pits, a yoga garden, and Styrofoam-supported berms up to eight feet tall. The whole thing is inspired by the work of Roberto Burle Marx, and is comprised of biomorphic raised beds with radiused corners. Here it is under construction:

The garden is one of Aqua's biggest selling points, according to marketing vice president Tricia VanHorn. She told me that "luxury is out; no one wants to pay for it. It's all about lifestyle now." Lifestyle, indeed. Yoga gardens? Sounds pretty luxurious.

But whatever you call it, to me it's the essence of L.Architecture: the seamlessness of building and landscape. Aside from the expression of the amorphic, curvilinear building balconies in the roof terrace planting beds, the landscape and building share some functional synergy. The terrace is the view from the building, so anything but a well-composed landscape would detract. The spaces within the building that directly access the terrace are the for-rent community rooms (which spill directly out into the large grill-and-gazebo areas) and the fitness center (one floor below and connected to the roof by a stairway in an open atrium).

But the building and landscape also work together from a marketing / sales standpoint. As we stood amidst the raw concrete and Styrofoam, VanHorn suggested to me that while the building brings people to the door, it's the amenities that sell the condos.

Have you seen other good examples of L.Architecture? Drop me a hint and I'll get more info and post it here.

No comments: