If you’re the sort of person who stops and looks skyward when you pass a construction site to admire the work being done and the building being created, you may have noticed a new trend in Chicago skyscrapers: Holes.
No fewer than three recently-opened residential blocks feature holes in their uppermost concrete slabs in order to allow light to penetrate to the common areas below. We’re talking about The Marquee at Block37, The Parker Fulton Market, and 1001 South State.
It’s not an in-house style because those three buildings are the work of two different firms. The Marquee and 1001 South State are Solomon Cordwell Buenz, and the Parker is Booth Hansen.
In case you’re wondering, the feature is called an oculus; and if you’ve ever been to Rome, you probably took a terrible photo of the most famous oculus, at the apex of The Pantheon. It’s also shown up in thousands of other buildings around the world from CenterPoint Energy Plaza in Houston where it’s an illuminated 47th-floor decoration, to the sun decks of private homes in Southern California where it helps moderate light in warm environments.
So, why oh why are oculi suddenly the octopi’s fry in Chi? We reached out to several local architects who work on buildings of similar stature, and of those who got back to us in time for publication, the consensus is that it’s just coincidence. Even though there are a brazillion tutorials online teaching young architects in training how to pull the trick off in their design software of choice, it’s not about advances in technology or computers or concrete forming. It’s just dumb luck.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t feel like a smartypants and point out every oculus you see to your friends. Now that you know what it’s called.
Thanks to Joe Zekas for bringing up this topic