What’s Going Up at bKL?

bKL - Chicago, Illinois - February, 2013 - 006a
Over the last few weeks we’ve brought you a series of articles on three-year-old Chicago architecture firm bKL.  Today we look at the projects they’re working on in Chicago and around the world.

GEMS Academy, Lakeshore East, Chicago

GEMS Academy Phase I

bKL has been very active in Lakeshore East.  It is the firm that’s designing the GEMS Academy branch there.  Phase I will go up first at 350 East South Water Street, next to The Tides.  Phase II will go up at 355 East Wacker Drive, next to another bKL building — The Coast.

bKL’s Thomas Kerwin,  Michael Karlovitz and Carl Moskus walked us through GEMS and more —

Editor: Is it unusual that GEMS Phase I is such a small building, considering that it’s prime space?

Thomas Kerwin, bKL Principal: This site is constricted by the zoning because there are residential units facing the school. So this was always intended to be a smaller building.

Editor: So Phase I doesn’t rise any higher than the podium for The Tides (360 East South Water Street).

Kerwin: It’s part of the master plan that it would be at that height. And this side [Phase II] has a similar datum, with the bustles and how it relates to its neighbors.

GEMS Academy Phase II

GEMS Academy Phase II

Editor: But Phase II will have people looking into it, won’t it? Because it’s right next to The Coast.

Kerwin: Yes, but just for a few floors. That’s why the exterior wall was developed that way — modulating the aperture.

Carl Moskus, bKL Director: The bottom 12 floors of [the west] side are a solid wall.

Kerwin: If you look at The Coast, there’s a party wall there.

Editor: The colored stripes, are they different kinds of glass?

Kerwin: Those are metal panels with color. The technology has really improved, so the panel will hold the color. It won’t fade. We did a number of color studies [for the GEMS buildings].

Michael Karlovitz, bKL Director: Some of them are very colorful and some of them are more restrained palettes, and what we ended up doing was going with the more restrained palette. There’s the Wacker Drive elevation, and then we have an elevation that’s on the park, also. And that one is the more colorful elevation. So it’s a progression.

Editor: Are you on board for all of the rest of the Lakeshore East development, or just one building at a time?

Kerwin: One building at a time. Magellan will still work with other architects. We happen to be working on those two buildings.

Jinhua Hotel, Junhua, China

Kerwin: This is a project we’re doing in China. It’s in a city called Jinhua, which is outside of Shanghai. It’s two-towers, mixed use — office, and hotel. Hotel on top.

China Central Newsreel & Documentary Film Animation Cultural City, Beijing, China

China Central Newsreel & Documentary Film Animation Cultural City, Beijing, China

Kerwin: This is a project in Beijing, an office and retail complex. It’s very near to the Bird’s Nest, along the third ring road. Right now we’re in the middle of design for the office complex.

592 Sherbourne Street, Toronto

Kerwin: This is what we’re working on [at 592 Sherbourne] in Toronto. It’s a condominium building.

The highest profile tower currently on the drawing boards at bKL is the west tower at Wolf Point.  For more information about that, read our larger article about the west tower that was published last week.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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