Clear sighted

A gleaming glass tower of angles and curves, 600 North Fairbanks offers condominium owners sweeping views of the Chicago skyline
Story by: Charles Moxham
View of the Chicago skyline from the condominium. apartment, architecture, chair, dining room, furniture, interior design, table, window, black, blue
View of the Chicago skyline from the condominium.

A sculptural, glass-walled condominium tower ensures viewing pleasure for its residents as well as for onlookers with floor-to-ceiling windows and glazed facades optimising city outlooks.

The 41-storey 600 North Fairbanks tower makes a leading-edge addition to the Chicago skyline. Designed by world-famous architect Helmut Jahn, whose work has changed the face of the city, 600 North Fairbanks has a straight contour on the north and west sides, but a rounded silhouette along the south-east edge. On the northern side, upper floors cantilever out beyond the base expressed with a glass wall that slants outwards from the 9th to 12th floors allowing for larger apartments on the upper levels of the tower.

To an extent, 600 North Fairbanks is a classic three-part building, with a clearly articulated base, middle and top. A tall, light-washed lobby and 11 floors of parking make up the base, the middle houses 24 floors of apartments, and the top holds four levels of penthouses and an amenity floor with lap pool, fitness centre and sun deck.

Jahn's contemporary construction techniques included using post-tensioning cables rather than steel reinforcing bars. This allowed the concrete floor slabs to be just 203mm thick these are expressed on the facade with narrow bands of extruded aluminium. Concrete reinforcing columns are recessed behind the building's glass skin, and windows on the north and south sides consist of large sheets of extra-wide, floor-to-ceiling fixed glass, free of mullions and air-conditioning units.

At the car-parking levels, a layer of aluminium mesh is set behind an outer wall of glass. Sunlight catching the mesh creates a textural effect for passers-by.

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View of the master bedroom which was realigned to make the most of the views of the Chicago skyline.

The building's minimalist characteristics, coupled with the use of extra-thick, mirror-smooth glass, turn 600 North Fairbanks into a futuristic design statement. The tower's clean-lined spatial grandeur on the outside is translated into loft-like apartments on the inside, with minimal internal structuring, expansive views and an abundance of natural light.

The penthouse apartment featured here has been reconfigured by architect Jon Salzmann to more closely suit the needs of its owner, while respecting the overall design of the building. This entailed realigning spaces and giving the rugged, exposed treatment of the interiors a more refined ambience.

Situated on the 37th floor, on the curved corner of the building, the upscale unit offers 270° views of the city and 371m² of floor space nearly a quarter of the total for this level. Design on the apartment upgrade began well before the building was finished, and while structural elements could not be altered, it was possible to move some power points and service elements, says Salzmann.

"The apartment has been reconsidered in terms of practical use and to optimise views," says Salzmann. "In the public areas, the kitchen was moved from a central, semi-enclosed space to an inner wall on the other side of the living room, adjacent to the balcony. Space gained from the former kitchen was added partly to the open-plan living room and partly to the second bedroom."

Gleaming, lacquered joinery and a dropped ceiling introduced to the living room add interest and definition to the space. Perhaps the most striking element is the elliptical form that partitions the living area from the home office, which is built into this dramatic divider.

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View of 600 North Fairbanks in Chicago.

"The curved floor-to-ceiling partition is a playful inclusion that echoes the shield shape of the entire living area," says Salzmann. "In a wider sense, the millwork provides a buffer between the entrance to the apartment and the living spaces, with some columns concealing service ducting."

A feature fire is set into one of the horizontal, floor elements. Access is by removable push-panels, styled in keeping with the invisible pivot-hinge doors on the storage cabinets that line the apartment's internal access corridor.

In the private spaces, a small third bedroom was subsumed into the master suite, and its ensuite bathroom repurposed as a walk-in wardrobe. The pocket-sized room had offered the best views on this side of the apartment, so the master bed alone now occupies this area. The reconfigured rooms have resulted in a more expansive master suite and a larger second bedroom, alongside.

"In addition, the layout of the master bathroom was altered as part of this project and the occupant of the tub now enjoys the most scenic view in the room," says Salzmann.

Dec 03, 2009

Credit list

Building architect
Helmut Jahn, Murphy/Jahn
Millwork manufacture
Inter Ocean Cabinet Company
Chocolate hickory hardwood from EcoTimber
Palm 7 from Freedom of Creation; Millwork Pucks HP Series 2-LTK from American Fluorescent; T156 18in from Tech Lighting; Mini Quiet Ceiling Recessed Trimless from RSA Lighting
Kitchen countertops
Pashmina from Heartland Granite
Ladylux Pro by Grohe
Oven, microwave, and warming drawer
Tubo by Snaidero
Bathroom tub
Pier freestanding by Waterworks
Crema Marfil Marble, polished, from Stone Source
Floor and wall tiles
Gris Pulpis stone tile flooring, Flexi Glass tiles
Condominium architect
Jon Salzmann, AIA, LEED AP,
Reed Construction
China White, Texas Leather from Benjamin Moore
Home Audio
Glenn Poor
Regatta by Franke
Sub-Zero, integrated
Ecosmart Fire Burner
Ladena Undermount by Kohler
Purist faucet and tub filler, MasterShower three-way, Kohler
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