Another one of my personal favorites from the Windy City by one of my favorite architects.
860 – 880 Lakeshore Drive is a pair of apartment towers designed by the famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The buildings are situated on a triangular plot of land facing Lake Michigan along Lake Shore Drive. They are among the first examples of high-rise construction with an external façade devoid of masonry, using only glass and steel. It was a design concept first envisioned by Mies in his never built Friedrichstrasse skyscraper proposal from 1921.
Lakeshore Drive Apartments later paved the way for an entire generation of similarly styled towers including Mies own masterpiece Seagram Building in New York City. The L-shaped layout later inspired architect Minoru Yamasaki to arrange the twin towers of the World Trade Center in a similar fashion.
The towers were finished in 1951 and contain 26 floors and are 254ft in height. The buildings sit on a travertine plaza and are connected by a cantilevered covered walkway. Underground parking is accessed via a ramp behind the towers. They were designated a Chicago Landmark in 1996.
Chicago regulations required that structural steel be covered in two inches of fireproofing concrete. To preserve the exterior metal appearance, Mies covered the required concrete with additional metal plating and added small decorative mullions made from steel I-beams. While not structural, these vertical beams express the true inner structure hidden within the encasing concrete.
The construction technique used here is an extension of that found on my Met Life Building using grille slope elements. I wanted something that expressed a high density of windows in a very small model. Unfortunately the hallmark I-beam mullions are too small to be adequately represented here. In some ways this model is perhaps more about the massing and arrangement of the towers rather than trying to showcase the design subtleties of a minimalist Mies façade.