Aqua Channel

Aqua Channel

Looking at Aqua Tower from East Wacker Drive.

You can see a slice of the Aqua Tower peeking between the black monoliths of 303 East Wacker Drive (formerly Three Illinois Center) and 323 East Wacker Drive (Swissotel Chicago).

The Aqua Tower was designed by Jeanne Gang and finished in 2009.

303 East Wacker Drive is a typical Ludwig Mies van der Rohe style building. Simplicity, open floor plans, black parallelepiped of steel and glass. Chicago Federal Center, IBM Plaza are perfect examples of Mies’ style.

303 East Wacker Drive fits right in. It was completed in 1979, ten years after Mies’ death. And the architect listed is Fujikawa Conterato Lohan & Associates (FCL).

Some records digging revealed that the company’s original name was, simply, the Office of Mies van der Rohe. FCL was the Mies’ company.

In 1975 Dirk Lohan, who is Mies’ grandson, Joseph Fujikawa and Bruno Conterato changed the Mies’ firm name to Fujikawa Conterato Lohan (FCL) Associates. Like lawyers, architects love long firm names.

323 East Wacker Drive was built in 1989 and the architect was Harry Weese. The building has an unusual triangle shape which gives most of the hotel rooms an unobstructed view of the Chicago River.

A planner, a visionary, a consummate city man with a piercing wit, Harry Weese was known in the shorthand of headline writers as “Chicago’s conscience.” That’s what Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune Architecture Critic wrote about him.

“Harry believed in democracy. He believed that the public sector was a barometer of society. He couldn’t stand a world where there were great individual buildings, but the streets were out of order,” said Chicago architect Jack Hartray, who worked with Harry Weese for 15 years.

My favorite quote by Harry Weese is “My father was Episcopalian, my mother Presbyterian, and I’m an architect”.

Buildings are designed by people, by architects. They have lives and life stories. Architects leave a message for future generations they conveyed through their design.

When you see a building try to hear its creator’s message.