Sculptured for sun and shade

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In Chicago, the birthplace of the skyscraper, one woman is setting new tones in the skyline. The apartment house Solstice on the Park by architecture firm Studio Gang, led by Jeanne Gang, proves that the fusion of a high-rise building and climate-friendly construction is possible. The facade cladding of concrete skin anchors the building in the surrounding municipal area.

The name speaks for itself: The new tower block in the Hyde Park district in the South Side of Chicago, completed in September 2018, is named Solstice. It is not the highest building from the renowned architect that substantially contributes to the new look of the city, which the poet Carl Sandburg once called „City of the Big Shoulders“. But it is one that is exemplary of the ambition in the Studio Gang to reconcile ecology, architectural character, integration into the surrounding urban context and material innovation.

Solstice on the Park perfectly combines the aspirations of the most innovative and current architecture and design studio with Rieder’s company philosophy of consistently viewing innovation, sustainability and design as one entity and providing designers with materials to extend their fields of action and to shoulder the diverse requirements of present and future.

The significant form of the building was conceived using sun diagrams: On the south facade the glazing is inwardly inclined and optimally aligned to the angle of incidence of the sun. The design cuts into the building’s facade in response to the sun and orients surfaces to the optimum 72-degree angle for Chicago’s latitude, maximizing sunlight in winter for passive solar warming and minimizing light and heat gain during summer to reduce air-conditioning usage.

The facade cladding of concrete skin from Rieder plays a significant role in the harmonious relationship between the attractive residential high-rise and its environment. Over 4000 square metres of the 13 millimetre thin panels made of non-combustible glassfibre reinforced concrete cover the construction of pre-stressed reinforced concrete.  The texture and color of the panels made of mineral resources are in aesthetic harmony with the character of the Hyde Park neighborhood characterized by sandstone and brick tones. The dark shade liquid black highlights the muscular property of the structure, gentle beige from sandstone and sahara, which corresponds well with the high number of wooden surfaces on the interior provides a cosy atmosphere.

Architects should be „Relationship Builders“ claims Jeanne Gang in her 2016 TED talk, meaning that she would like to contribute to building relationships through her buildings – in both a social and an ecological sense. This concept of relationship creation as the moving force for design is not only true for Solstice on the Park and it’s solar energetic advantages. The incline also allows overlooks of the expansive space of Jackson Park and provides a maximum view thanks to enlarged glass surfaces. This also omits the other driving force of the incline: spacious balconies for many residents that are sheltered from the wind and afford glimpses of Lake Michigan to the East.

Depending on the situation of the apartment, there are spectacular views of the Museum of Science and Jackson Park to the south, and the breathtaking skyline to the north: „Form follows Function“ in the finest Chicago tradition.


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