Introducing the Wanda Vista Tower

Wanda Vista Tower (courtesy Studio Gang)

Wanda Vista Tower (courtesy Studio Gang)

The Wanda Vista Tower, as many of you already know, is a planned supertall skyscraper due to open in downtown Chicago sometime in 2020. A Chinese—Beijing-based—real estate developer named the Wanda Group has teamed up with Chicago’s own Magellan Development Group to construct what promises to become our city’s third tallest building. At 89 stories, 1,186 feet, the Wanda Vista tower will definitely more than hold its own in our ever-changing skyline. And this supertall promises to be spectacular!

The skyscraper, as currently planned, will include a five-star hotel with 240 rooms and some 410 condominium homes located on the tower’s upper floors. Of course restaurants, bars, and other people-places will be sprinkled throughout the development. The Wanda Vista will be located in the 300 block of East Wacker Drive facing the Chicago River. On an urban scale, it is expected that substantial changes will be made to both Upper East Wacker Drive and to Lower Wacker Drive at this site; connecting streets, pedestrian paths, and landscaping to and through Lakeshore East’s neighborhood with East Wacker is mandatory for the new tower to seamlessly blend into the existent skyscraper neighborhood. These are essential pluses for each.

Accomplished Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, head of the Studio Gang firm, will lead the design team for this project. She has envisioned three bundled towers of various heights that progressively rise from east to west. Each of these glassy tubes will undulate from top to bottom in a manner that recalls Constantin Brancusi’s (1876-1957) abstract sculpture Endless Column, a masterpiece of modularity (version one was completed in 1918 after which he made many). The Wanda Vista Tower will be at once a piece of abstract sculpture and a towering home to well-heeled Chicagoans and visitors alike. A form executed in wood and conceived almost a century ago will be resurrected as a giant skyscraper here. Of course it is unknown if the tower’s overall design was an intentional artistic borrowing on the part of Gang from Brancusi, a flight of architectural fancy, or a personal interpretation of architectural gymnastics a la Chicago. At any rate, Chicago’s new development promises to be a true minimalist landmark on our skyline irrespective of its inspiration.

One very compelling aspect of this skyscraper triumvirate (as if its overall form is not already enough) will be the adept tinting and placement of its window glass. As currently planned, multiple shades of exterior bluish glass will be employed on its façade. By colored shade, each pane’s location will be systematically determined for maximum visual effect; the tower’s enclosure system will artistically respond to its structural system. As designed, darker shaded panes will reside at the narrow or pinch-points of the towers and alternate with lighter tinted panes at the locations of the larger floor plates. These glass-shading differences will emphasize the undulating aspects of each of the three fused towers. What a tour de force this will make, close up and at a distance.

The very location of the Wanda Vista Tower downtown will assure it a prominent place among the five existing supertall towers already there. It will stand removed from the Willis Tower (1,451 feet), the Franklin Center (formerly the AT&T Corporate Center, at 1,007 feet), and the Hancock Center (1,128 feet) by roughly a mile from each. Its closer neighbors, the Trump Tower (1,388 feet) and the Aon Center (1,136 feet), will be distanced enough for the Wanda Vista to claim its own part of the sky. It will especially command the northward view of those traveling north along Lake Shore Drive, and it will certainly wield a commanding presence to any boaters on the lake or river; from any direction its tall and singular form will be spectacular.

The completion date for the Wanda Vista Tower is scheduled for the year 2020. Until then, one may visit the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gallery 395B in the Modern Wing to view the wood pedestal for the Golden Bird. This Brancusi-designed sculpture (c.1922) is supported by a truncated variation of his Endless Column. View it to imagine what Chicago’s version will be like.
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