233 North Michigan Avenue Plaza Renovation
REIT Management & Research, LLC, Goettsch Partners
The plaza surrounding 233 N. Michigan Avenue, a 1970s high-rise office, had never been particularly attractive or inviting, and with new ownership, the desire to rebrand the property and create some buzz in the real estate market while also attracting a younger demographic, the owner decided to undertake a complete renovation and makeover. Waterproofing and other technical issues were addressed, but the project drivers were Design, with the goal of creating a fresh and memorable urban space, and Program, i.e., getting the right mix of areas, uses, and elements. Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. was retained as the lead designer and landscape architect, worked closely with Goettsch Partners, the project architect.
The new plaza design is a “transformational” insofar as it is a complete break with the post-Miesian past and a strong contrast to the surrounding corporate architecture. The new design is a garden rather than a plaza; it is curvilinear rather than rectilinear; it is organic rather than formal; the new experience is subjective, such that one is walking through the garden, rather than objective, the former plaza paradigm, where one walked by some planters.
The principal design element is a series of large organically-shaped bermed planters which define pedestrian pathways and sitting and amenity areas. One area is furnished with movable seating and is large enough to accommodate performances; another area is smaller and paved with weathered granite to impart the texture and sound of a garden; the smallest seating area is focused on a fire pit. Two large precast benches anchor smaller sitting areas in sun pockets that are focused on the view to Michigan Avenue. Contemporary furnishings add bright accents of orange, lime, blue, and chartreuse. Despite the organic and curvilinear forms, planters are based on modular precast concrete curbs with four different radii, and at four locations the curb grows into a long precast concrete bench.
The project was completed on time and on budget in Spring 2014.