Scott Duncan
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Chicago

In Chicago, where iconic towers like the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center pioneered tall building technology, how do you design a new urban icon? Located where Lake Michigan meets the Chicago River, 400 Lake Shore Drive serves as a gateway to Chicago, designed to strengthen the city’s connection to the natural realm while transforming the downtown skyline. The sister towers feature slender, cascading silhouettes, creating breathtaking views of the city and lake.

Inspired by the Chicago School, the towers are clad in glass and terra-cotta, with intricate metal detailing and a contemporary rippling facade symbolic of the surrounding waters. A hallmark of the Chicago School—the “Chicago window”—is reinterpreted through a series of expansive bay windows with floor-to-ceiling glass.

Designed to create a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience, the exterior of each tower incorporates expansive outdoor terraces that extend individual residences beyond their walls, offering 180-degree uninterrupted views of the lakefront, river and cityscape. Adjacent, an expanded Riverwalk will bridge the gap between downtown and the lakefront, connecting to a reimagined DuSable Park—a new public park in the heart of the city. On a site that has been the subject of design proposals in decades past, the transformative Chicago-inspired vision for the future was led by SOM and developer Related Midwest.