The design creates a useable landscape on the human scale while
solving the problems of a difficult site (a long, narrow
strip between tall buildings with no depth for planting)
at an artistic level that stands up to the overpowering
The landscape for a fifty-two-story office
tower in downtown Chicago is a forty-foot-wide protected
linear way that runs for a block along the side of the
building. This pedestrian passage—West Madison
Street—creates a visual edge that can be seen
through the parallel glazed wall of the building’s
block-long lobby. It ends at the rear of the building
on North Franklin Street, where a small square serves
as an outdoor terrace for a street-level restaurant.
The problem was to accommodate the tree
planting and separate pedestrians from the street while
humanizing the spaces and artistically dealing with
the immense scale of the buildings.
Vaults running just below the sidewalk
level made conventional tree wells impossible—a
problem solved by a series of specially formed hemispherical
armatures that sustain ground-cover growth and allow
the root balls of the street trees to remain above ground.
The raised tree wells were placed thirty feet apart
along the edge of the street. Carved stone benches provide
comfortable seating and extend the architectural scale
of the lobby out to the street. The pavement at the
outdoor base of the building is made of flat flamed-granite
cobbles that further reinforce the human scale of the
promenade and terrace. (This is the first use of a cobble
pavement in new construction in Chicago.) Custom-designed
lights alternate with the trees of the linear park.
The terrace at the North Franklin Street
entrance to the building contains three large bench
planters, each with a treeless hemisphere floating in
a pool of water. The reflection on the still surface
of the pool turns each mound into a perfect sphere.
Flowerbeds and flowering fruit trees transform the space
into a welcome outdoor lunch venue.