Water Tower Residence

Our clients, a mature, well traveled couple relocating to Chicago’s Water Tower Place from a family home in Des Moines, commissioned us to design a museum setting for their diverse collection of old masters, antiquities and modern crafts.  Two separate apartments totaling 5800 s.f., were to be combined and gutted.  The program called for: a suite of rooms for themselves and a separate guest suite adaptable for future live-in help; spaces for extended family functions as well as extensive entertaining, to include many auxiliary places such as a pantry, wine cellar, darkroom and study.

We chose to create a plan not unlike that of a traditional museum with axial progressions of rooms arranged enfilade to extend spatial perceptions.  The building, the first of Chicago’s retail/ hotel/ residential complexes presented a series of design challenges.  The association no longer permits any relocation of electrical, plumbing or mechanical chases or risers.  At the 70th floor there is considerable building movement and deflection in the floor slabs.  The 8’- 8” ceilings are radiantly heated thus precluding any penetrations, and the windows terminate at the ceiling plane causing air distribution systems to be pulled back from them to avoid obscuring views.

Our design strategy was to establish a secondary datum line at 7’-8” to allow space for mechanical, fireproofing and sound systems, as well as conduit and low voltage transformers, and to distribute conditioned air, sprinkler heads, and speakers through a continuous aluminum grille which also acts as a reveal to absorb movement.  To gain a perception of greater height, especially necessary in larger rooms, we extended the bronze anodized aluminum window bays vertically by cladding the sills and surrounds as well as the wall below in the same material.  Hope’s bronze doors with translucent glass divided lights slide from pockets or swing from bronze hinges reiterating that material palette while providing the effect of shoji screens requested by the clients who admire traditional Japanese architecture and desired the same sense of serenity. 

We invented display systems for different collections.  The bronze silk paneled wall in the living room is subdivided into squares studded with bronze plugs that permit expansion of the African mask collection.  New furnishings that we designed such as metal or glass lounge kitchen or dining tables needed to join the previously established eccentric craft tradition and to be completely unique in concept.  For example, the square glass living room display table is cleaved by an arc that echoes the curved light track above and the terrazzo floor divider below, which in turn is “traced” through the carpet by a dark line that divides two textures.  The apartment is frequently opened to museum groups touring Patron’s art collections.