Text by Edward Keegan
Chicago’s skyline changed dramatically early this century, fueled not by the commercial buildings that crowned it as a center of architecture in the century prior, but by residential towers that answered a growing desire to live in or near the city’s iconic Loop. This construction stalled as the economy tanked in 2007–09, but it’s begun anew, with the first projects just now coming on line. Located in the fast-growing South Loop area, the 15-story 1345 South Wabash, by local firm Brininstool + Lynch (B+L), is the first such high-rise to be completed since the recovery set in.
Even within the consistently minimal Modernism of partners David Brininstool, AIA, and Brad Lynch, 1345 stands out for its starkly simple composition.
The top 12 floors of the east, north, and west elevations are formed by bold horizontal strips of white-painted concrete that contrast with bands of windows, punctuated by a grid of 5½-foot-deep by 8-f00t-wide cantilevered balconies on the north face. The architects riff on several Chicago predecessors: The horizontals are reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright while the simple articulation of the façade is more Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. But the mid-block, infill site is more typical of Manhattan than Chicago, a sign that this next generation of towers is less about freestanding structures and more about responding to specific urban conditions. Brininstool led the design, produced for longtime client CMK Cos., and this is B+L’s fifth multifamily building in the South Loop.
The 72-foot-wide site, fully occupied by the post-tensioned concrete structure, lent itself to a single-loaded corridor solution. Units face north, and while they now have incredible views of the Loop, the construction of a new B+L tower for the same client just 60 feet away will eventually leave units with a view of a shared garden between the structures instead.
Twelve floors of 12 units each sit atop three floors of parking. The most typical units (comprising a third of the total) are narrow—about 15 feet wide by 49 feet deep—but 10-foot ceilings lend spaciousness. “We need the 10-foot ceiling by code to allow borrowed light for interior spaces,” Brininstool says.
Interior materials were chosen for their taut lines, but are hardly lavish. In the long, narrow ground floor lobby, exposed striated concrete reprises the exterior’s horizontal motif. And there is no pool or gym—it is walking distance from any amenity one could desire.
“The condominium market is difficult,” Brininstool says, noting that developers need to make their profit quickly. But “CMK has been able to differentiate their buildings in the market through design.” In Chicago, where design can be king-making, that says a lot about what B+L have done at 1345 South Wabash.
Project: 1345 South Wabash, Chicago
Client: CMK Cos.
Architect: Brininstool + Lynch, Chicago . David Brininstool, AIA (principal); Dan Martus, AIA (project manager); Angelika Bukowska (project architect)
M/E Engineer: Cosentini Associates
Structural Engineer: C. E. Anderson & Associates
Civil Engineer: Eriksson Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer: Hayward Baker
Construction Manager: Daccord
General Contractor: Lend Lease
Size: 178,100 square feet
Construction Cost: $27.5 million