- Project Name
- 151 North Franklin
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 880,000 sq. feet
- Shared by
- Project Status
From the June 2019 Issue of ARCHITECT:
A new high-rise office tower joins its public spaces to the city around it.
“Most architects who get a high-rise building immediately think about shape,” says architect John Ronan, FAIA. But that results in “a city full of self-referential object buildings with no dialogue.” For the design of 151 North Franklin, a spec office tower in his home base of Chicago, Ronan took the opposite approach: Instead of focusing on the building’s form, he asked, “How do you pull the city into the building? And conversely, how does the building make the city better?”
Ronan and the project team from his eponymous firm, John Ronan Architects, approached the commission with urban design in mind: Building upon an existing pocket park across the street, they extended the green space—or at least the idea of it—right through the structure, with a plaza and visually open lobby at the base, a terrace on the second level, and a glassed-in deck on the top floor. Ronan conceived of the exterior spaces as distinct environments—each suited to different activities, from lunch meetings, to quiet work, to unwinding at the end of the day—but also very much as a part of the whole. “I think of them as outdoor rooms,” he says. “What if we rethink public space in terms of collaboration lounges, so that people can leave the office without leaving the building?”
The plaza is carved out of the base of the tower, behind a colonnade, and features a scattering of birch trees and seating for a ground-floor café. The branches and leaves are hazily reflected in the linen-finished stainless steel ceiling panels two stories above, so that “the effect of the trees is amplified,” Ronan says.
The second-floor terrace feels more private, though it is open to the public via an exterior stair leading directly to the street. “It gets direct sunlight from 11:00 to 1:00,” Ronan says, “and at other times it’s shady and contemplative.” The tenants-only roof terrace is lined with glass walls that serve as a windbreak. It can accommodate large gatherings, but hawthorn trees in gabion planters define smaller seating areas. Placing a deck at the top of the tower was a pointed choice: At 36 stories, the tower is shorter than the buildings around it, so, Ronan says, “How much sense does it make to spend the money on a form at the top of the tower?” Instead, the terrace draws the street plaza into the skyline.
Ronan’s approach to creating flexible urban space isn’t limited to the outdoors, it extends to the lobby as well. Security at the elevator cores limits upper-floor access to tenants, but the majority of the space remains publicly accessible. “It feels like a grand lobby,” Ronan says, “but at the same time there are spaces within the lobby that feel smaller and more intimate—like a sunken lounge.”
Ronan specified Jet Mist granite as a nod to the conventional trappings of Class A lobby space, but eschewing what he calls the “mausoleum-like” feel of many tower lobbies, he chose three finishes—sandblasted, flamed, and honed—to make it less formal. The core is clad in sandblasted mirror-finish glass to reflect the birch trees and the daylight from full-height windows at the end of each elevator bank.
“Object buildings exclude you because you have to be outside of them to appreciate them,” Ronan says. “I wanted people to feel welcome, and to have it be a real place in the city.”
Project: 151 North Franklin, Chicago
Client/Owner: The John Buck Co.
Design Architect/Interior Designer: John Ronan Architects, Chicago . John Ronan, FAIA (principal and lead designer); Marcin Szef, Assoc. AIA, Sam Park, Eric Cheng, Laura Gomez Hernandez (project team)
Architect of Record: AAI Associates
M/E/P Engineer: Environmental Systems Design
Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Civil Engineer: Mackie Consultants
Geotechnical Engineer: GEI Consultants
Construction Manager/General Contractor: Lendlease
Landscape Architect: Wolff Landscape Architecture
Lighting Designer: Aurora Lighting Design
Vertical Transportation: Jenkins & Huntington
Code/ADA Consultant: Jensen Hughes
Acoustic Engineering: Shiner+Associates
Size: 880,000 square feet
Cost: $184 million (core and shell)