Located in the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, 235 Van Buren is a residential tower containing studios, one- and two-bedroom condominiums targeted for people entering the real estate market and are buying their first home. The site is located on the southern edge of the central business district of Chicago. Its architecture is a response to two site conditions. The first condition, to the north, is the densely infilled context of the Chicago “Loop.` The second condition, to the south, is an open space created by a freeway and major traffic interchange which also contains a small park.
The articulation of the two masses is distinctly different to respond to these two conditions. The southern glass façade and random balconies provide a backdrop to the open space created by the traffic interchange. A ribbon of concrete frames this glass wall, undulating to define the penthouse units and providing a large-scale gesture to the expressway as well as the taller buildings to the north. The random balconies express the individuality of the units within, provide a kinetic image from the freeway and help shade the south facing glass.
The northern façade is a flush grid of rectangular openings with inset balconies. This gesture relates the building back to the historic Chicago Loop and the frame-expressed architecture of the “Chicago School.`
In order to keep costs down and make the units more affordable, units are designed with borrowed-light bedrooms behind living spaces with ten foot ceilings to form a loft-like living arrangement. This allows the building to be wider than the standard residential tower and reduce exterior enclosure costs.
In order to reduce the effect of this extra width, the overall mass of the building is broken down by dividing the tower into two slabs. This concept also provides an urban space at the street corner which relates to the existing plaza on the opposite corner and pronounces the entry to the residences. The massing break-down is further accentuated by differentiating the heights of the two shifted slabs at the top of the building.