Vista Theater is fading; the best views of Vista Tower are no on the north side of the Chicago River.
I saw construction on three Wanda Vista Tower projects during October: the one you’re most familiar with, Vista Tower here in Chicago, plus two in Australia: one in the demolition phase in Sydney, New South Wales, and the three-tower Jewel Residences project on the beach in Gold Coast, Queensland. I managed to get to Chicago’s site on the last day of the month to make sure McHugh Construction crews hadn’t finished up while we were gone. Thankfully, they had not.
Checking out a caisson from above at GEMS World Academy Upper School.
The Upper School at GEMS World Academy Chicago has begun caisson work at 355 East Wacker Drive. Case Foundation is on site digging long, slender holes in the ground and then filling them right back in with rebar and concrete.
Originally issued a foundation permit way back in March of 2015, the GEMS Upper School got a new caisson permit on September 20. Designed by bKL Architecture, as was the first GEMS school, Power Construction will take build the school atop the Case’s caissons.
Vista Tower glows from across the Chicago River at River Esplanade Park.
Vista Tower has been under construction for just over a year now. This blog has featured approximately 17,648 posts about progress on the 95-story hotel and residential tower. And yet, I’ve somehow managed to neglect it. How? By not stopping by the site after dark. That situation has been rectified, as of this past weekend.
I know, you just saw a bunch of photos of Vista Tower yesterday. But here we go again.
No longer a staging area for Vista Tower, site prep is underway for GEMS World Academy Upper School. It will fill the space between to Vista and Coast.
As if we didn’t have enough to watch along East Wacker Drive.
A couple weeks back – on August 4 to be precise – GEMS World Academy Chicago announced the start of construction on the Upper School, which will be built right up against the underway Vista Tower. (You may have heard of that.) Designed, as was the original GEMS building, by bKL Architecture, the Upper School will be a 17-story, 240,000-square-foot facility accommodating more than 1,400 students.
For now, site prep is underway, with Power Construction serving as general contractor.
You can read the August 4 press release from GEMS here.
Interior rendering of GEMS World Academy Chicago Upper School.
A view of Vista Tower from the lower deck of the Lake Shore Drive bridge.
I know I get carried away when I walk around Vista Tower, but come on. So much going on, in such a large area. Think about the skyscrapers being built in New York City: straight up in the air, over tiny footprints. (Well, except Hudson Yards, of course.) Not Vista. That’s a big, sprawling site. With beams and columns and scaffold and concrete rigs. Oh, that’s right, don’t forget the two tower cranes.
Removing forms from the angled concrete columns at Vista Tower.
Vista Tower column b/w Tribune Tower.
“I was just at Vista Tower. No need to go by there again.” I said to myself as I walked in the general direction of Lakeshore East. An hour or so later…
Just that process of taking forms off the angled concrete columns had me staring for a solid 30 minutes. Throw is some signage that looks like it came straight from a European auto race, plus non-stop work seemingly 24/7 considering the progress that’s been made, and there’s a lot to see that’s new.
So yeah, as long as they (they being McHugh Construction) keep doing cool stuff here, I (and everyone else in Chicago with a camera) will keep snapping photos.
The form removal:
Is someone *supposed* to be in there? Or is this a hazing?
Spotted the #hotdogdivvy while I was there. Am I the wiener of a prize?
The WOW Factor just kicked up a notch at Vista Tower.
There’s an age-old axiom in architecture that I just made up that says “You can’t build frustums without angling some columns.” And it makes a lot of sense, if you don’t give it much thought.
Frustums on frustum in this Studio Gang rendering of Vista Tower.
It’s happening now at Vista Tower. McHugh Construction has the beginnings of four concrete columns sticking out of the north elevation at an impossible-not-to-notice angle, to which they’re adding rebar and concrete forms, making an already photo-worthy work site nearly impossible to walk away from. It’s also what Paul Simon was referring to in You Can Call Me Al with the lyric “angles in the architecture, spinning in infinity…” That is, *if* you happened to get liner notes with typos in them. (**Graceland reference due entirely to Paul Simon concert in Milwaukee over the weekend. I won’t make it a habit.**)
Those cool new beams (that’s what the teenagers say all the time: “Cool beams!”) should keep Vista Tower construction very entertaining as they’re repeated throughout the process. Not that any of us needed another reason to keep going back. But we’ll take it.
It’s been a month since we took a look at progress on Vista Tower, the magnificent supertall by Studio Gang and bKL Architecture. You may think workers would be discouraged that I haven’t been dropping by daily, but McHugh Construction crews seem to be getting a lot done despite my absence. Certainly not because of it.
Anyway, I’ll need to borrow some balconies soon, for as Vista climbs higher, our scenic views from Wacker Drive and Lakeshore East are going to be well below where the action is.
The two cores of Wanda Vista Tower, Chicago’s best free entertainment.
I could do three posts a week on the changing landscape that is Vista Tower construction. The site looks that different from day to day. The number of small individual projects going into making this one huge project a living, breathing being are fascinating to watch, even when I have no idea what most of it is. Combine that with the viewing platforms of Upper Wacker Drive to the north and the walkways along the south, and Vista Theater provides hours of entertainment for passing construction nerds.
But pulling up a lawn chair and camping out is not only discouraged by nearby residents and construction firms alike, but somewhat impractical in spring’s temperamental weather conditions. I can still offer to go by a few times each month though, and when I do, I’ll share bunches and bunches of photos with you, and then it’s like we’re all camped out there. And remember, when this thing climbs above Upper Wacker level, there won’t be nearly as much to see. You won’t get tired of photos before that happens.