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Height: Occupied
250.6 m / 822 ft
Height: To Tip
261.8 m / 859 ft
Height: Architectural
261.8 m / 859 ft
Aqua Outline
Floors Above Ground
Floors Below Ground
# of Elevators
Tower GFA
184,936 m² / 1,990,635 ft²
# of Apartments
# of Hotel Rooms
# of Parking Spaces


Official Name Aqua
Name of Complex Lakeshore East
Other Names Aqua Tower
Structure Type Building
Status Completed
Country United States
City Chicago
Street Address & Map 225 North Columbus Drive
Building Function residential / hotel
Structural Material concrete
Proposed 2004
Construction Start 2007
Completion 2009
Official Website Magellan Development
Rankings Click arrows to view the next taller/shorter buildings
Global Ranking #218 Tallest in the World
Regional Ranking #40 Tallest in North America
National Ranking #36 Tallest in United States
City Ranking #10 Tallest in Chicago

Companies Involved

Owner Aqua Realty Holdings LLC
Developer Magellan Development Group
Design Studio Gang Architects
Architect of Record Loewenberg Architects
Structural Engineer
Design Magnusson Klemencic Associates
MEP Engineer
Design Abbott Industries, Inc.; Advance Mechanical; Gurtz Electric Company
Main Contractor James McHugh Construction Co.
Other Consultant
• Wind Alan G. Davenport Wind Engineering Group
• (not specified) EFCO Corporation
Material Supplier
• Elevator Otis Elevator Company
• Post-Tensioning AMSYSCO

About Aqua

Unlike a tower in an open field, new towers in urban environments must negotiate small viewing corridors between existing buildings. In response to this, the Aqua Tower is designed to capture particular views that would otherwise be unattainable. A series of contours defined by outdoor terraces extends away from the face of the tower structure to provide views between neighboring buildings. The terraces inflect based on criteria such as the view, solar shading and size and type of dwelling. When viewed together, these unique terraces make the building appear to undulate, presenting a highly sculptural appearance that is rooted in function.

These outdoor terraces are cantilevered up to 4m (12ft) and have a depth of 23cm (9in) which thins out towards the edge of the cantilever to assist with water drainage. The terraces differ in shape from floor to floor causing each floor plate to differ. The challenge of constructing unique floor plates was solved by implementing a computerized civil engineering and surveying software program and digital CAD files for inputting the coordinates of each unique slab to a robotic station used onsite. This system was used to set in place light-gauge steel plate edge-forms according to the contours. After the concrete had set, these steel forms would be removed and easily reshaped according to the contours of the next level.

Among the building’s notable features is the green roof terrace atop its plinth and is one of Chicago’s largest. It contains an outdoor pool, running track, gardens, fire pits and a yoga terrace. From below, Aqua’s plinth navigates the site’s complexity by spanning over pre-existing elements, such as an electrical substation, and by aligning with existing infrastructure, including an adjacent three-level roadway. The plinth physically connects pedestrian areas with stairs and elevators linking street level to park level and the lakefront.

The tower’s east–west orientation maximizes its winter solar performance. Its balconies extend further on the southern façade to provide shading, reducing solar exposure in summer and allowing passive warming in winter. In addition to low-E coatings on all glass, the design team modeled seasonal sun patterns to identify remaining areas of glass that needed higher performing glazing to increase energy efficiency throughout the tower. Glass on the east and south façades are reflective in areas without a protective balcony, while glass facing west has a tinted coating that improves its shading coefficient. In total, Aqua employs six different types of glass: clear, tinted, reflective, spandrel, fritted and translucent, the placement of which is determined by the orientation and function of interior space. Fritted glass is used and combined with handrail design to minimize bird strikes.

The building is also constructed on a former brownfield site, and 50% of its site is dedicated green open space, exceeding Chicago’s standard zoning ordinance by 25%. This green roof is one of the largest in the city and also features a drainage system that includes water collection for its irrigation. Furthermore, Aqua exceeds the City of Chicago’s minimal requirements for natural ventilation and sunlight by more than 50% in over 90% of its spaces.

Detailed wind tunnel studies were completed to confirm the performance of the structure under high winds. Initially, it was thought that a supplemental tuned mass damping system may be required to appropriately manage the effects of the wind on occupant comfort. However, during the testing, it was discovered that the undulating slab edges disrupted or “confused” the flow of wind around the tower, effectively reducing the wind demands, and this, combined with the effectiveness of the structural design, eliminated the need for a supplemental damping system.

CTBUH Initiatives

CTBUH Hosts China Government Delegation
20 May 2016 – Tour Report

Chicago Regional Tour
29-30 Oct 2015 – Tour Report

Warm Weather Spaces Walking Tours 2015
17 Sep 2015 – Tour Report

More Initiatives

CTBUH Initiatives Related to Aqua

CTBUH Hosts China Government Delegation
20 May 2016, Chicago – Tour Report
CTBUH was honored to host a delegation of government officials from the Shanghai Huangpu District People’s Government.
Chicago Regional Tour
29-30 Oct 2015, Chicago – Tour Report
CTBUH 2015 delegates toured Chicago and its architectural marvels. From recently constructed skyscrapers to the modern marvel of Willis Tower, which held the tallest title for 25 years.
Warm Weather Spaces Walking Tours 2015
17 Sep 2015 – Tour Report
The CTBUH Urban Habitat / Urban Design Committee organized guided walking tours of 16 cities around the globe, focusing on urban habitats around tall buildings.
Study on Sustainability Implications of Urban + Suburban Location
Feb 2014, Chicago – CTBUH Research
CTBUH is conducting a research study aimed at understanding the contributing factors of “sustainability” in both urban and suburban contexts.
Tongji University Faculty and Students Visit Chicago
Nov 2013, Chicago – Tour Report
“Towards Zero Carbon,” a collaborative design studio between Tongji University, CTBUH and the Illinois Institute of Technology, made a week-long visit to Chicago in November.
Young Professionals Hosts Meeting at the 2012 Awards Symposium
18 Oct 2012, Chicago – Event Report
Exactly one year after its establishment the CTBUH Young Professionals Committee gathered at the Awards Symposium on October 18 at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Climbing the Coast: Tour Report of New Chicago Skyscraper
24 Jul 2012, Chicago – Tour Report
With only two floors left before topping out, the CTBUH Young Professionals Committee organized a tour last week of the Coast at Lakeshore East.
Young Professionals Committee Holds Inaugural Event
4 Apr 2012, Chicago – Event Report
CTBUH’s newly-established Young Professionals Committee staged their first event, a multi-disciplinary presentation on the creation of Aqua, the landmark Chicago tower.
CTBUH Releases Tallest Buildings Completed in 2009
Dec 2009 – CTBUH Journal Paper
Trump International Hotel & Tower named tallest building completed in 2009; Successful year for the American high-rise. Over half of all buildings 200m or taller completed in the past twelve months…
Aqua Tour
21 Oct 2009, Chicago – Tour Report
Close to 60 attendees of the 2009 CTBUH Chicago Conference began their conference experience with a two-hour technical tour of the recently completed Aqua Tower.
CTBUH Chicago Helicopter Tour
5 Jul 2009, Chicago – Tour Report
CTBUH members toured many of the extensive Chicago skyscrapers as part of the Chicago Skyscrapers Summer Tour Program.
CTBUH Summer Tours - Aqua Tower
19 Jun 2009, Chicago – Tour Report
The crown jewel of Chicago’s Lakeshore East master planned community, Aqua Tower, was the subject for the second in the series of CTBUH Summer Tours.
CTBUH Aqua Tower Tour
17 Dec 2008, Chicago – Tour Report
CTBUH staff had the great opportunity to receive an educational tour of the Aqua Tower guided, by Jim Loewenberg of Magellan Development Group.

Global News

Aqua Doppel-Gang-er Sprouting in Houston
1 Oct 2013 – PM Realty has started construction in Houston on a…


CTBUH Research Project: The Sustainability Implications of Urban + Suburban Locations – Initial Report
17 Sep 2014 – Peng Du, CTBUH / IIT & Antony Wood, CTBUH / IIT / Tongji University

Blades of Steel: Understanding the Limits of Metal Façade Design
16 Sep 2014 – Patrick Loughran, Goettsch Partners

Embodied Carbon and the Case for Longevity
19 Sep 2012 – Donald Davies, MKA

More Videos

Videos Related to Aqua

Videos Related to Aqua

CTBUH Research Project: The Sustainability Implications of Urban + Suburban Locations – Initial Report
17 Sep 2014 – Presentation at CTBUH 2014 Shanghai Conference; Peng Du, CTBUH / IIT & Antony Wood, CTBUH / IIT / Tongji University
It is widely accepted that the concentration of people in denser cities – sharing space, infrastructure, and facilities – offers much greater energy efficiency than the…
Blades of Steel: Understanding the Limits of Metal Façade Design
16 Sep 2014 – Presentation at CTBUH 2014 Shanghai Conference; Patrick Loughran, Goettsch Partners
Metal claddings frequently skin our tall buildings. They provide the texture and shine that help distinguish one glass tower from the next. Like the fabric on a well-…
Embodied Carbon and the Case for Longevity
19 Sep 2012 – Presentation at CTBUH 2012 9th World Congress, Shanghai; Donald Davies, MKA
The sustainability and longevity of today’s tall buildings is an often-neglected subject. Embodied carbon can be used as a metric for making important decisions regarding…
Architecture and Engineering as One
Oct 2011 – Presentation at CTBUH 2011 Seoul Conference; Ron Klemencic, Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Integrating and even celebrating the structure of a building through the architectural design often leads to dramatic and memorable buildings. To achieve the best outcome…
Interview: Aqua Tower
21 Oct 2010 – 2010 Awards Ceremony/Symposium Interviews; Jim Loewenberg, Magellan Development; Bruce Lake, McHugh Construction
Thursday 21st October 2010. Jim Loewenberg of Magellan Development and Bruce Lake of McHugh Constrcution are interviewed by Jeff Herzer during the 2010 CTBUH Awards…
Materials Process and Tools: Towards the 'Particular'
25 Oct 2006 – Presentation at CTBUH 2006 Chicago Conference; Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang
Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang Architects focuses on technology’s role in the design process for the Aqua tower at the CTBUH 2006 Chicago Conference held in the Herman Hall,…

Browse hundreds of other videos from Council events including conferences and interviews with prominent tall building professionals in the Video Library

Research Papers

Three Points of the Residential High-Rise: Designing for Social Connectivity
26 Oct 2015 – Global Interchanges: Resurgence of the Skyscraper City

CTBUH Research Project: The Sustainability Implications of Urban + Suburban Locations – Initial Report
16 Sep 2014 – CTBUH 2014 Shanghai Conference Proceedings

Tallest Buildings Completed in 2009
Dec 2009 – CTBUH Journal, 2010 Issue I

CTBUH Awards

Best Tall Building Americas 2010 Finalist
CTBUH Awards 2010