333 Wacker Drive

Chicago, IL, USA Urban Investment & Development Co. Perkins & Will, Architect-of-Record Office 1 million ft2 / 93,000 m2 AIA National Chapter Honor Award for Architecture (1984), Friends of Downtown Award for Best New Building Design (1986)

333 Wacker Drive is one of the Chicago skyline’s most celebrated buildings. The building is as much of a Chicago landmark today as it was when it was built more than 25 years ago. Located on a triangular site where the urban grid of the Loop meets the bend of the Chicago River, this 36-story, 1-million-square-foot tower offers two distinct sides: the south face is sliced and notched, directly addressing the geometry of the city’s grid, while the northwestern side mirrors the river with a reflective green-glass skin and graceful curving façade, emerging from its context as a luminous glass volume.

The tower’s base is expressed as a mass of stone articulated by gray granite and horizontally banded green marble, echoing the hue of the curtain wall and the river. At street level, a monumental arcade of green marble columns wraps around the periphery for a striking pedestrian experience.

Broad semicircular steps celebrate the formal entry from downtown. A pedestrian arcade of monumental proportions wraps the building’s periphery. The arcade is anchored at the corners by enormous structural columns. The monumental base is justified by contextual and programmatic demands. The office floors are raised above the noisy elevated tracks, which cross the river and run directly alongside the building, by large a mechanical floor placed directly above the two-story lobby. The building thus gained a four-floor untenanted block at its base, free to be sculpted and allowing for grand-scale lobbies.

The stone base of the tower, which keys into the glass shaft, is articulated with gray granite, horizontally banded by green marble. The stone has been detailed to express its non-load-bearing capacity and its intention to provide a lively pedestrian scale at street level. On the downtown façade, circular air-intake grilles set in black granite panels become grand decorative elements. The decorative stone-and-stainless steel system of the base is continued into the two lobbies, integrating inside and outside and unifying the entire entry sequence. The base and lobbies evoke a classical flavor without literal references, owing to the well-defined, symmetrical, and sequential progression of spaces.

The building has undergone no major transformations and remains in great condition since its completion in January of 1983. A few minor renovations have been done to the building throughout the years including replacing the lobby floor in 1999, renovating the exterior plaza and planter boxes in 2006, and replacing the pavers in the exterior stairs.

Image 1 / 3 | © Barbara Karant