Paul Clemence, the award-winning photographer and artist, in his latest photo series, presents us with splendid snapshots of The St.Regis Chicago (the Vista Tower). Reaching a striking 101 storeys, this masterpiece is the latest addition to the already world-famous skyline of Chicago, earning the appellation of the third tallest building on the Chicago skyline. Housing condominiums, a 5-star hotel, restaurants, and amenity spaces, this classic tower is designed by Studio Gang, an architecture and urban design firm based in Chicago with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Paris. 

Chicago’s Third Tallest Building, the St. Regis Tower designed by Studio Gang released by Paul Clemence - Sheet1
St. Regis Tower_©Paul Clemence

Innovation

A visit to the design firm’s website introduces us to an interesting question. The design for The St. Regis Chicago enquires if skyscrapers could act as porous connectors instead of interrupting barriers, in the public realm. This is exactly where this tower stands distinct from the other projects. Presenting a super creative solution of innovative structural systems, The St. Regis Chicago connects the downtown Lakeshore East community to its surroundings and also offers unprecedented urban links and better public access to the Chicago River.

Chicago’s Third Tallest Building, the St. Regis Tower designed by Studio Gang released by Paul Clemence - Sheet2
This splendid edifice remains slender despite its mammoth size_©Paul Clemence

On looking at Paul Clemence’s photos, it is astonishing in a way that this splendid edifice remains slender despite its mammoth size. The St. Regis Chicago presents itself as three interconnected volumes of varying heights as we look up from the river and the park. The incorporation of an innovative structural system facilitates the central second block to be raised from the ground plane, thereby forming a fresh pedestrian link connecting the Chicago Riverwalk and the nearby community park’s outdoor recreational facilities. Instead of disrupting, the tower tries to enhance the urban fabric of the space.

The Form

Moving in and out of the plane, Paul Clemence captures the wavy appearance of the tower due to the alternating geometry. The primary building block of this tower is a 12-story truncated pyramid called a frustum. Stacked and arranged in impeccable harmony, the frustums of The St. Regis Chicago create a wavy and flowing facade with adequate green spaces designed atop all the three towers of varying heights of 48, 72, and 101 stories respectively. Instead of the usual four corners, this ingenious geometry creates a tall structure with eight corners, thereby offering its inhabitants daylight and good ventilation. 

Chicago’s Third Tallest Building, the St. Regis Tower designed by Studio Gang released by Paul Clemence - Sheet3
This is where the tower succeeds not just as an urban landmark but also as a sculptural object_©Paul Clemence

To accomplish the tapering form of the structure, as seen in Paul Clemence’s photographs, the floor plates within each 12-story section shift from 80-foot squares to 90-foot squares, with an offset of 5 inches from one floor to the next one. The structural engineers considered the idea of sloping columns at the perimeter for navigating the difference from floor to floor but identified that it would be more economical to shift each column line by 5 inches. The tower when looked at from a distance appears to be sloped but the columns and the curtain wall are vertical and not angled. This is where the tower succeeds not just as an urban landmark but also as a sculptural object. 

Cladding

One of the best features of The St. Regis Chicago as seen in Paul Clemence’s photography is the innovative cladding of aquamarine glass. The architect mentions that the color is derived from the lake and the river and the greenish tint from natural algae found in the Great Lakes. It is incredible to note that there are six graduated shades distributed in a specific way so that the darkest shade is used for the smallest floors, where the short distance from the core to the perimeter increases solar-heat gain. The lightest shade is used for the largest floors. 

Chicago’s Third Tallest Building, the St. Regis Tower designed by Studio Gang released by Paul Clemence - Sheet4
Façade of St.Regis tower_©Paul Clemence

The architect, Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang’s founding principal, initially tried to achieve this model with colored glass but couldn’t find the consistent gradient she wanted. Later, she decided and fixed it on glass with a metallic coating by a German manufacturer. She also mentions how they had a calibrated rendering tool which allowed them to choose glass that satisfied both the visual criteria of color and the environmental criteria of shading coefficients. It is remarkable to observe that the color is barely perceptible from inside the 393 condos on top and the 191 hotel rooms below and thereby not disrupting the spectacular vistas through the fenestrations of The St. Regis Chicago.

Technology

One of the most important characteristics of the project is that the wind tunnel testing revealed that the best cost-effective way to avoid sway in Chicago, the windy city would be to add a blow-through floor above the 86th storey, supplementing the liquid mass dampers at the top. The architect, Jeanne Gang decided to design this as a continuous two-storey-high void. In spite of positive reviews of the project, this aspect alone finds itself in the midst of criticism. Blair Kamin, an architectural critic called it “strangely unfinished, a scar.” The architects responded by saying that they could have concealed it with louvers or any other material and that they made a conscious choice to embrace and express it as the physics of a tall building. 

A continuous two-storey-high void above the 86th storey_©Paul Clemence

References:

  1. www.architecturalrecord.com. (n.d.). St. Regis Tower by Studio Gang. [online] Available at: https://www.architecturalrecord.com/articles/15424-st-regis-tower-by-studio-gang [Accessed 21 May 2022].
  2. studiogang.com. (n.d.). The St. Regis Chicago (Vista Tower). [online] Available at: https://studiogang.com/project/vista-tower [Accessed 21 May 2022].
  3. ArchDaily. (2022). Paul Clemence Releases Images of Chicago’s Third Tallest Building, the St. Regis Tower by Studio Gang. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/981632/paul-clemence-releases-images-of-chicagos-third-tallest-building-the-st-regis-tower-by-studio-gang [Accessed 21 May 2022].
  1. www.paulclemence.com. (n.d.). Biography | Paul Clemence. [online] Available at: http://www.paulclemence.com/biography.html [Accessed 21 May 2022].
  1. St Regis Residences Chicago. (n.d.). St. Regis Residences Chicago | Luxury Condos For Sale. [online] Available at: https://srresidenceschicago.com/ [Accessed 21 May 2022].
Author

Meera Venkatesh, an architectural writer, finds it intriguing to recreate the same experience of space through words. Her love for architectural history has led her to pursue a Master's in History. Someone utters "Indian Heritage"; you may find Meera there! Now, what's her new interest? Writing for RTF!

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