The USA’s third-largest city and the world’s second-busiest airport, Chicago is a busy, bustling, active melting pot of a city with an excitingly dusty, windy energy all of its own. Its skyline is renowned: impressive architectural edifices vie for attention amongst the steel and glass skyscrapers – thanks, in the main, to a fire which ravaged the city in the late 1800s and lead to a century-long building boom.
Architectural delights abound in Chicago – particularly large ones. One of the tallest, Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), even has its own zip code! There’s something about Chicago and architecture – it was Frank Lloyd Wright’s destination immediately after college when in need of work. (His grounding in building design in Chicago went on to spawn such icons as the Guggenheim in New York.)
A lesser-known but nonetheless impressive architect is Jeanne Gang. Firstly, she’s a woman at the top of her game in what is traditionally seen as a male-dominated profession; and secondly, she designed one of Chicago’s iconic towers: the Aqua – in fact it is the tallest building in the world to have a woman as the lead architect. And it’s an amazing-looking structure: balconies ripple across its 80-story facade creating an extraordinary effect of sculptured waves – it’s like having a slice of Dubai in Downtown Chicago. These balconies protrude from the building by up to 3.7 metres affording Aqua’s residents wonderful views of Chicago’s landmarks and together have over 10 kilometres of railings.
And one more thing: the top part of the building is residential or office space, but the first 18 floors are a Radisson Blu hotel. So, whereas most amazing buildings can only be marvelled at from the outside, the inside of this building is open to everyone – to stay or simply for a drink at the bar. It’s worth a visit.