Will Progressive Architecture Mark the Rebirth of Polonia Triangle?


Within a perpetually changing urban landscape, there come new buildings with a fresh architecture that vividly captures their moment in time and set a new standard for design. The recently completed tower at 1611 West Division is one of these buildings.

Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects led the design of the 11 story tower.  It imagined the façade as a mass wrapped by fabric with vertical reflective panels and indented glass windows stitched around the building like a woven textile. The bulk of the building is broken up by curvilinear concave setbacks along Ashland Ave and Division St. giving the tower a more triangular, flatiron shape. The tower rejects the stiff right angles and traditional all-glass facades of modernism for a distinctive aesthetic that suggest motion and individuality. Even developers are responding to the growing demand for quality architecture by prospective tenants, even at the expense of maximizing floor space.

1611 West Division is a mixed-use building. There will be businesses at street level with Intelligensia Coffee a confirmed occupant. The second floor consists of offices and artist studios. Floors 3 through 11 contain 99 rental units with the unconventional distribution of windows giving each one a unique view.

The most progressive part about 1611 West Division is that it offers no parking for residents, becoming an example of transit-orientated development. The building is marketed entirely toward those who use alternative modes of transportation, adding to urban density without the addition of unwanted traffic. The tower represents a lifestyle without a car.

The sheer scale of 1611 West Division sets a new tone and aesthetic for the Ashland/Division/Milwaukee intersection. What was the site of a Pizza Hut is now occupied by the most noteworthy building in the neighborhood. The dramatic upgrade should serve as a catalyst for transformation of the urbanism around it. The barren Polish Triangle is the most obvious place to start.

Author: Paul Kulon

Paul Kulon is a Chicagoan and blogger. You can see more of Paul’s photos and musings on his Tumblr feed, Bohemian Embassy

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