Any time a new skyscraper goes up in downtown Chicago, a lot of people are interested in it. But the new tower planned for 200 North Michigan Avenue has two distinctions that make it even more an item of curiosity: It’s going up in The Loop, and it will be the first skyscraper groundbreaking on Michigan Avenue since the Ritz-Carlton Residences (664 North Michigan Avenue) nearly five years ago.
We gathered a dozen or so questions from Chicago Architecture Blog readers who want to know more about the building, and e-mailed them to friend-of-the-blog, Thomas Kerwin, one of the principals at bKL Architecture, the firm that designed the building. The building’s design team includes Michael Karlovitz, Carl Moskus, Gaby Miramon, Audry Grill, Kate Monachos, Darya Stefanovic, Andres Lopez, Scott Schumaker, and Chris Ciraulo.
Q: What was the goal for 200 North Michigan? What influenced the design that we see?
Kerwin: The site is very prominent and a very desirable location for residential use. Creating a very high quality building on that site has been a driver for our client (Buck/Becker) and bKL from the outset.
Q: 200’s next-door neighbor is the landmark Carbide and Carbon building. How does it relate to that?
Kerwin: C. and C. is a jewel of a building. The siting of the 200 building respects the C. and C. building. We held the Michigan/Lake corner and created as much separation as possible between the two structures. We resisted the notion of having the long face of the building oriented along Michigan.
C. and C. is oriented east-west and the narrow face addresses Michigan Avenue. The design of 200 is sited this way as well. Both buildings hold the Michigan Avenue street wall. Setbacks and articulated walls occur on the north and south faces. We have kept the Michigan Avenue wall free of balconies, and the design of that face will be a beautiful and crisp glass wall. Balconies occuring on the north and south faces are recessed and help give the building a more varied texture on those faces like C. and C.
Q: The stretch of Michigan Avenue that this building is on is kind of a hodge-podge of architectural styles. How does 200 North Michigan fit in?
Kerwin: That section of the Michigan Avenue is primed for new activity. It is an important stretch linking the river and Magnificent Mile to Millennium Park. There has been significant activity both north and south of this area.
There are some beautiful structures in this section. There are some significant masonry buildings with stone bases. Illinois center looms large with its modern glass and dark metal skin.
We are creating a lighter expression with the use of glass and color. The pedestrian experience and retail frontage is really important as this section of Michigan has lacked attention in this regard in recent years.
Q: 200 North Michigan is intended to be 13 feet taller than the Carbide and Carbon Building. Was this a deliberate choice, or a function of something else?
Kerwin: Function and program drove the overall height. However, viewing the block as a whole and respecting C. and C. was also a consideration.
Q: This project is on a very small plot on one of the busiest streets in the city. How did that challenge affect the building’s design?
Kerwin: The plot is actually is actually a quarter block and accommodates a desirable residential footprint quite nicely. Parking is always a challenge on urban sites. Fortunately this site is at the southern boundary of the lower Michigan corridor. So all the service access including the parking entry is at Lower North Michigan Avenue and hidden from the boulevard above.
Q: The building is designed with retail on the second floor and on Garland Court. How does the design lure shoppers in to those areas that typically don’t see much foot traffic?
Kerwin: That section of Garland Court could be really beautiful. It has always reminded us of a quiet lane that one might see in London. The masonry building directly west has a beautiful base and has retail fronting Garland.
Second floor retail has its challenges and good access is key. We are working with the Buck team to make this successful which also creates an enhanced Michigan Avenue pedestrian experience on the street. That is more of a driver than economics really and that is a credit to the development team.
Q: The building appears to have a two-story lobby. Tell us about it.
Kerwin: The building has only a one-story lobby but the development team has committed to creating two-story retail along Michigan Avenue. This will give added interest and life at street level of the building.
Q: Is there a hotel component to this building, or is it all rental apartments and retail?
Kerwin: The program is rental apartments and retail.
Q: Is there any pass-through between 200 North Michigan and the Carbide and Carbon Building/Hard Rock Hotel?
Kerwin: There is no internal connection planned between the two properties.
Q: This is easily the glassiest building in the area. Why so much glass, and why that color?
Kerwin: Well I spoke about the glass above and color we are still studying. Available glass types and functional needs will help drive those decisions. The color of C. and C. will have a big influence on our choices.
Q: Based on the limited drawings made public, comparisons have been made to bKL’s The Coast. How is this building different?
Kerwin: This building continues our goal of creating multi-family rental buildings that give appropriate attention to the skin and exterior design. This building type has typically been given the least attention architecturally in our city. The luxury rental market demand along with buildings in highly visible locations require an appreciation for the design of the skins. We are pleased with how The Coast [345 East Wacker Drive] pushed the envelope in this regard. There are many details to work out on 200 but we intend to a create a highly quality skin that will distinguish this building and make it unique.
The economics of this building type require a high degree of efficiency in planning and design. Hopefully with greater efficiencies in these areas, more dollars can be directed to the skins of these buildings as this is what we all see and live with in our urban environments.
Q: Considering the prominence of this location, would it have made sense to go taller?
Kerwin: Given the use of the building the size and height are appropriate. Could it go taller? Yes, of course, but we think it is the right height and scale for the block. It respects the C. and C. building and its much deserved prominence on the skyline.