Laura Crane of bKL Architecture takes you inside Parcel O in Chicago - a mixed use project of residential and commercial use. She’ll cover everything from schematic design and design development to how the client and existing buildings influenced and affected the building’s design.

Practical Applications

It's located in the Lakeshore East neighborhood, which is just east of Chicago's central Loop, adjacent to the lake.

If you ever take a step back in Chicago and not just look at a block in its entirety but several blocks in their entirety you'll notice these horizontal lines that are continued through various buildings and we follow that horizontal datum over here in Lake Shore East as well. So the podium height is kinda determined by the surrounding higher road infrastructure and we keep this horizontal line throughout all the projects in Lake Shore East. So, when we came and put the design solution for Parcel O this was no different and we wanted to maintain this horizontal datum and have this project fall in with the unity of the surrounding buildings.

Every single slab of the lower level of this tower aligns with the lower level of the tower to the north. We built the structure to the edge, and we're designing the structure to the edge of this project as well. And there's cmu infill currently there right now, and we will knock out the walls that we need to knock out and have a grade to grade connection as well as a slab to slab connection for the lower five levels of this project.

The Higher Star hotel brand, was very important that their suites had lakeside views, so we placed that hotel brand on the eastside of the site facing Lake Michigan. The second hotel brand their catchment is a younger hipper crowd, so it was very important that we put those views, facing west towards the city. And both hotel brands share a mini deck, that they really want this to be a lively, active center within the city, so when we were planning and laying this out, we analyted mini zen studies, to figure out the point on the podium that would get the most direct sunlight exposure and that was the western most part of the deck so that's where we placed the pool.

We were able to determine where to place the pool by doing several sun studies of different times and different days throughout the entire span of the year, and so after several studies, we came to the conclusion that the western edge of the site had the longest direct exposure to sunlight, and that's where we placed this amenity.

Any construction project that's infill in an urban setting, is gonna be way more sustainable than new construction in a rural setting. You're already tapping into existing infrastructure. Everything that you need is already there.

Another benefit of utilizing a post-tensioned slab, we're able to maintain between eight and nine inch slab thickness. It doesn't need to be fireproof because it is non-combustible. And this reduces the total surface area of the building, keeping this economical, structural solution for our owner.

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With that said, we are often analyzing floor plate sizes, floor plate layouts, room key layouts, residential unit layouts and trying to hit the best target for the client. And keep in mind everything is stacking. So when you change one thing, you have to change it on a different plate, as well.

So a mixed use project is multiple programs within the same building footprint, within the same building. In urban settings, this is is very, very common, right, 'cause the price of land is very valuable, it's very high. And so stacking vertically is the best option, it's the most efficient also if you look at it from a sustainable standpoint too.

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